Proof that introns are functional… come again?

I use Google Reader to aggregate not just blogs but science news, journal contents, and index searches. The feed for my weekly PubMed search turned up a real doozy. The record had been deleted by the time I got to PubMed, although I did manage to track it down.

Check this one out, it’s the zaniest abstract I have seen in some time:

The Genomic Structure: Proof of the Role of Non-Coding DNA
Bouaynaya, N. Schonfeld, D.

Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, 2006. EMBS ’06. 28th Annual International Conference of the IEEE, Aug. 2006, pp. 4544-4547.

We prove that the introns play the role of a decoy in absorbing mutations in the same way hollow uninhabited structures are used by the military to protect important installations. Our approach is based on a probability of error analysis, where errors are mutations which occur in the exon sequences. We derive the optimal exon length distribution, which minimizes the probability of error in the genome. Furthermore, to understand how can Nature generate the optimal distribution, we propose a diffusive random walk model for exon generation throughout evolution. This model results in an alpha stable exon length distribution, which is asymptotically equivalent to the optimal distribution. Experimental results show that both distributions accurately fit the real data. Given that introns also drive biological evolution by increasing the rate of unequal crossover between genes, we conclude that the role of introns is to maintain a genius balance between stability and adaptability in eukaryotic genomes. (Emphasis added, in case that didn’t leap out at you already).

There you have it. Introns are ingenious decoy targets, and some fancy math PROVED it. As if a few pages of equations weren’t enough, they even provided a basic analysis of exon sizes in three species — and one wasn’t even a mammal. Sadly, no Dappers though.

2 comments to Proof that introns are functional… come again?

  • Blake Stacey

    Dang. Genomics is easier than I thought!


    This is just a conference proceeding, right?


  • Anonymous

    The paper by the way has a sentence plagiarized verbatim from the Wikipedia article on Junk DNA

    For example, the coding sequence of a human protein-coding gene is typically about 80% identical to its mouse ortholog, while their genomes as a whole are much more widely diverged.

    One can look back in the history and see this has been in WP for years…


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