DN/A.

For some time, I have wanted a new term for the broad category of DNA otherwise commonly referred to as “junk DNA”, i.e., everything other than genes and gene regulatory elements. “Non-coding DNA” is about the best option I have seen, in that it refers to DNA that does not encode a protein relevant to organismal biology, but this doesn’t quite work because some transposable elements do encode enzymes used in reverse transcription. Plus, this is a bit of an ungainly term that isn’t very catchy at all.

One that I think is somewhat catchy and encompasses most of what we need it to, is “DN/A“. Now, “n/a” can stand for either “not available” or “not applicable”, and in this case it would be in reference to organism-level functions for the majority of DNA in the genome. In other words, it does not distinguish between sequences that have an unknown function, no gene-related function, or no function at all, which is what we want.

The only question is, how to pronounce it so that it is distinguished from DNA when spoken? Give us your suggestions in the comments.

If you have alternative suggestions, let us hear them too.


8 comments to DN/A.

  • Trent

    written “DN/A” and pronounced “non-coding DNA”

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  • “Non-coding DNA” doesn’t work for me. It’s true that “coding” is usually shorthand for protein-coding, but in that case the phrase leaves out a lot of important, functional RNA that is also coded for. So if I mean protein, I try to write out the mouthful “non-protein-coding DNA.”
    That is what “junk DNA” means to some people, but that is clearly wrong, and a lot of people use “junk” to describe things that have no known function (yet). So the two phrases don’t seem to be describing the same thing, as I see them used. How about “apparently nonfunctional DNA”?
    For myself, you and others have convinced me to avoid the phrase (and the accompanying mythology) “junk DNA” as much as possible. I also treat the word “gene” with kid gloves. Some people use it (as you seem to here) to mean protein-coding regions, while for others it includes functional regions of whatever type (my preference). But it’s a strikingly slippery word, even for something like a sequence that undergoes alternative splicing.
    Often these problems get easier if you say what you actually mean.
     

      (Quote)

    • The other jim

       

      “Non-coding DNA” doesn’t work for me. It’s true that “coding” is usually shorthand for protein-coding, but in that case the phrase leaves out a lot of important, functional RNA that is also coded for.

      I’m not sure about that. rRNAs and tRNAs are not considered “non-coding”.

       

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  • Chad Whitmell

    D-Non-A
    OR
    D-Nought-A (variations on this might include the pronunciations ‘doughnut-A’, or ‘doughnut-eh?’)

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  • ST

    DN/A is clever, but I’m not sure it’s terribly clear.

    How about we describe what it is by drawing an analogy to working status? “Part-Time DNA” or “Retired DNA.” We’re talking about function in the context of a larger operation, after all.

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  • Bobo

    “The only question is, how to pronounce [DN/A] so that it is distinguished from DNA when spoken?”
    A question of higher priority is “Does DN/A have a chance of catching on?”  Since the answer to that question is clearly “no”, the answer to your question is irrelevant.
     

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