Media Gets Duped by the “Duon” DNA Hype

DNA Second Code

Researchers from the University of Washington, as a part of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) Project have made a discovery that has created quite a lot of undeserved hype among few scientific circles. The research team led by Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos , an associate professor of genomic sciences and medicine have found that the dual use of genetic code in the body occurs in a much greater frequency than it was previously thought. Although an important discovery, not as much a significant discovery like the one described here.

One of the major functions of genetic code is to produce proteins. A set of three nucleotides, known as a codons or a triplet codons code for a specific amino acid and these amino acids links to each other to form proteins. Our body has 64 such triplet codons formed by different combinations of four basic nucleotides A, T, G, C/U and they code for 20 different amino acids. Some of these amino acids are coded by more than one triplet codon. Apart from their role in coding for amino acids, some portion of the genetic code is involved in regulatory functions, viz.enhancers, promotes, terminator sequences etc.

The new discovery, which some are now calling it as a “second code” is the presence of more dual use codons, a set of three nucleotides that apart from coding for a specific amino acid, is also involved in gene regulation. Even though this occurrence has been known for some time, its frequency in the same areas that code for proteins was not until now. These researchers have found that the genome has more of such dual-codons involved in both “protein-control” and “gene-control” than previously assumed. They even coined a term “duon” for these codons. This new discovery throws new light on evolutionary genetics as each mutation in an organism can have dual implications. The study has been published in the journal Science.

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