Caltech Finds Amazing Role for DNA

“Scientists at Caltech may have sounded the final death knell for the ‘junk DNA’ myth. ENCODE, readers recall, found that 80 percent of the genome is transcribed, even if only a small part codes for proteins. The functions of those non-coding regions were only hinted at. Now, the windows are opening on organization so all-encompassing for all those non-coding RNA transcripts, it is truly mind-boggling what goes on in the nucleus of a cell. Using a new survey tool they call RD-SPRITE, Caltech researchers, in cooperation with others at USC and UCLA, mapped the spatial organization of all the DNA and RNA in the nucleus. ‘These maps reveal higher-order RNA-chromatin structures associated with three major classes of nuclear function: RNA processing, heterochromatin assembly, and gene regulation. These data demonstrate that hundreds of ncRNAs form high-concentration territories throughout the nucleus, that specific RNAs are required to recruit various regulators into these territories, and that these RNAs can shape long-range DNA contacts, heterochromatin assembly, and gene expression.’ A new picture begins to emerge of hierarchical organization in the nucleus. No longer does it look like spaghetti in a basketball. On the contrary, there are territories and compartments throughout the interior. In the newly identified territories are found ncRNAs (noncoding RNAs, not destined for protein)–thousands of them–that are doing important jobs: guiding regulators into the right territories where ‘essential nuclear functions’ need to take place. The roles of these transcripts, formerly thought to be useless, have risen to the status of essential players. What an amazing turnaround! The conclusion of this Caltech paper, which never mentions evolution, appears to nail the case shut for junk DNA, while also adding new levels of awe to the workings inside the nucleus. This is a paper to remember. It shows in hindsight the fruitfulness of the ID [Intelligent Design] perspective over the evolutionary one. Evolutionary thinking dismissed these non-coding RNAs as junk. ID thinking would have approached the unknown with the premise, ‘If something works, it’s not happening by accident.’”

“Caltech Finds,” Evolution News, Dec. 3, 2021