Bioscience

With genomes, bigger may really be better

March 3, 2009

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: ScienceDaily] – Biologists analyzing DNA in search of the molecular underpinnings of life have consistently favored species with small genomes, which are cheaper to sequence and lack the repetitive “junk” that clutters bigger genomes. But a new study by Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists suggests that when it comes to figuring out how genes are controlled, bigger genomes are much more useful.

Animal genomes vary tremendously in size; worms have as few as 70 million “letters” of DNA, whereas salamanders have more than 100 billion. In a research article published in Public Library of Science (PLoS) One on March 4, 2009, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Michael B. Eisen and colleagues report that large genomes can make it easier to find regions of DNA that control gene activity. “In small genomes, functional elements are packed tightly together. In bigger genomes functional elements are separated and therefore easier to find,” says Eisen, who collaborated on the study with scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Arizona, and the Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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