A new study suggests that the large majority of noncoding DNA, which is abundant in many living things, may not actually be needed for complex life.
The clues lie in the genome of the carnivorous bladderwort plant, Utricularia gibba. The U. gibba genome is the smallest ever to be sequenced from a complex, multicellular plant. The researchers who sequenced it say that 97 percent of the genome consists of genes — bits of DNA that code for proteins — and small pieces of DNA that control those genes. It appears that the plant has been busy deleting noncoding “junk” DNA from its genetic material over many generations, the scientists say. This may explain the difference between bladderworts and junk-heavy species like corn and tobacco — and humans.
The international research team, led by the Laboratorio Nacional de Genómica para la Biodiversidad (LANGEBIO) in Mexico and the University at Buffalo, will report its findings on May 12 in Advanced Online Publication in Nature, and the information in this press release is embargoed until 1 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time on May 12.