Here are a few more exciting details from the ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) pilot project report.2 As a help in understanding this, DNA is a very stable molecule ideal for storing information. In contrast, RNA is a very active (and unstable) molecule and does lots of work in our cells. To use the stored information on our DNA, our cells copy the information onto RNA transcripts that then do the work as instructed by that information.
- Traditional ‘beads-on-a-string’ type genes do form the basis of the protein-producing code, even though much greater complexity has now been uncovered. Genes found in the ENCODE project differ only about 2% from the existing catalogue of known protein-coding genes.
- We reported previously that the transcripts overlap the gene regions, but the overlaps are huge compared to the size of the genes. On average, the transcripts are 10 to 50 times the size of the gene region, overlapping on both sides. And as many as 20% of transcripts range up to more than 100 times the size of the gene region. This would be like photocopying a page in a book and having to get information from 10, 50 or even 100 other pages in order to use the information on that page.
- The untranslated regions (now called UTRs, rather than ‘junk’) are far more important than the translated regions (the genes), as measured by the number of DNA bases appearing in RNA transcripts. Genic regions are transcribed on average in five different overlapping and interleaved ways, while UTRs are transcribed on average in seven different overlapping and interleaved ways. Since there are about 33 times as many bases in UTRs than in genic regions, that makes the ‘junk’ about 50 times more active than the genes.
- Transcription activity can best be predicted by just one factor, the way that the DNA is packaged into chromosomes. The DNA is coiled around protein globules called histones, then coiled again into a rope-like structure, then super-coiled in two stages around scaffold proteins to produce the thick chromosomes that we see under the microscope. This suggests that DNA information normally exists in a form similar to a closed book—all the coiling prevents the coded information from coming into contact with the translation machinery. When the cell wants some information it opens a particular page, ‘photocopies’ the information, then closes the book again. Recent other work3 shows that this is physically accomplished as follows:
- The chromosomes in each cell are stored in the membrane-bound nucleus. The nuclear membrane has about 2000 pores in it, through which molecules can be passed in and out. The required chromosome is brought near to one of these nuclear pores.
- The section of DNA to be transcribed is placed in front of the pore.
- The supercoil is unwound to expose the transcription region.
- The histone coils are twisted so as to expose the required copying site.
- The double-helix of the DNA is unzipped to expose the coded information.
- The DNA is grasped into a loop by the enzymes that do the copying, and this loop is copied onto an RNA transcript. The transcript is then checked for accuracy (and is degraded and recycled if it is faulty). The RNA transcript is then specially tagged for export, and is exported through the pore and carried to wherever it is needed in the cell.
- The ‘book’ of DNA information is then closed by a reversal of the coiling process and movement of the chromosome away from the nuclear pore region.
- The most surprising result, according to the ENCODE authors, is that 95% of the functional transcripts (genic and UTR transcripts with at least one known function) show no sign of selection pressure (i.e. they are not noticeably conserved and are mutating at the average rate). This contradicts Charles Darwin’s theory that natural selection is the major cause of our evolution. It also creates an interesting paradox: cell architecture, machinery and metabolic cycles are all highly conserved (e.g. the human insulin gene has been put into bacteria to produce human insulin on an industrial scale), while most of the chromosomal information is freely mutating. How could this state of affairs be maintained for the supposed 3.8 billion years since bacteria first evolved? A better answer might be that life is only thousands, not billions of years old. It also looks like cells, not genes, are in control of life—the direct opposite of what neo-Darwinists have long assumed.
- Astonishing DNA complexity uncovered
- Splicing and dicing the human genome: Scientists begin to unravel the splicing code
- Alex Williams, Astonishing DNA complexity uncovered, http://www.creation.com/article/5158. Return to Text.
- Ewan Birney, et. al., Identification and analysis of functional elements in 1% of the human genome by the ENCODE pilot project, Nature 447: 799-816, 2007. Return to Text.
- Asifa Akhtar & Susan M. Gasser, The nuclear envelope and transcriptional control, Nature Reviews Genetics 8:507–517, 2007. Return to Text.
Published: 3 July 2007 (GMT+10)
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Updated, longer, more complex look at the ENCODE project found here: Splicing and dicing the human genome
Seven page pdf found here: Astonishing DNA complexity demolishes neo-Darwinism
"The traditional understanding of DNA has recently been transformed beyond recognition. DNA does not, as we thought, carry a linear, one-dimensional, one-way, sequential code—like the lines of letters and words on this page. And the 97% in humans that does not carry protein-coding genes is not, as many people thought, fossilized ‘junk’ left over from our evolutionary ancestors. DNA information is overlapping-multi-layered and multi-dimensional; it reads both backwards and forwards; and the ‘junk’ is far more functional than the protein code, so there is no fossilized history of evolution. No human engineer has ever even imagined, let alone designed an information storage device anything like it. Moreover, the vast majority of its content is meta-information—information about how to use information. Meta-information cannot arise by chance because it only makes sense in context of the information it relates to. Finally, 95% of its functional information shows no sign of having been naturally selected; on the contrary, it is rapidly degenerating! That means Darwin was wrong—natural selection of natural variation does not explain the variety of life on Earth. The best explanation is what the Bible tells us: we were created—as evidenced by the marvels of DNA—but then we fell and now endure the curse of ‘bondage to decay’ by mutations..."
Crick and Watson, upon discovering DNA, we immediately concerned about the possible challenges to Darwinism inherent in their discovery. Early DNA findings were spun in Darwinist ways to try to present DNA as a record of long ages of many mutations and lots of "junk" cluttering up genome. Now we know better and in fact studying DNA has become like watching a horror movie for Darwinists as it continues to reveal intentionality and design and remarkable complexity that makes the idea of random generation laughable. That anyone would be silly enough to adhere to Darwinism after making a careful study of organisms continues to baffle me. I have heard that "love is blind" but in the case of naturalistic materialists it is religion that is deaf, dumb and blind!
When Edward Hubble realized that the entire Universe was exhibiting a red shift in received light, putting the Earth at the center of the Universe he was afraid that creationists would assert this meant that the Earth had a favored and intended position in the Universe. But we don't need to look way out there to see the handiwork of God, we can look within the cell to see it and it is obvious indeed.
Creationist, hold your head high and keep learning. The Darwinist story is a house of cards but you can get technical journals from ICR and AIG and Creation.com that are cutting edge and will keep you up to date. Tomorrow I will publish a brand new excerpt from such a technical journal that discusses the religion/worldview of naturalists both within and without the world of religion and science. There are so-called Christians who are naturalists! Naturally (pun alert) they are sadly mistaken but it is interesting to look carefully at this attack on Christianity and how it relates to science and philosophy. Tomorrow!