A new study demonstrates that genes recognize other genes that have similar base pair sequences, a discovery that can help us understand DNA repair and genetic diversity.
* Telepathic Genes *
New research published in the January issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry suggests that genes are able to recognize other similar genes within the genome (all genes of an organism). And apparently, they are able to do so without the help of any intermediaries (proteins or other biological molecules). This discovery is important as it may explain how similar genes find each other and to undergo DNA repair and crossover.
* What Are Genes Made Of? *
To fully appreciate the findings of this exciting new research, you need to understand the basics of what genes are. Genes exist in chromosomes each made of nucleic acids and proteins. These nucleic acid units, taken together, are the blueprints for each of our cells. Molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) are our genetic material.
Nucleic acids are big molecules made when smaller monomers, called nucleotides, are put together.
* Nucleic Acid Structure *
Each monomer of nucleic acid (nucleotide) consists of 3 portions:
* a pentose sugar
* one or more phosphate groups
* one of five cyclic nitrogenous bases
* Phosphate-Sugar Backbone *
These nucleotides are linked to each other by covalent bonds between the phosphate of one nucleotide and the sugar of next. The linked monomers become the phosphate-sugar backbone of nucleic acids. Nitrogenous bases extending from this phosphate-sugar backbone like teeth of a comb.
* The Twisted Ladder of Nucleic Acid *
Hydrogen bonds form between specific bases of two nucleic acid chains, forming a stable, double-stranded DNA molecule. The structure is analogous to a ladder, with the two deoxyribose-phosphate chains as side rails and the base pairs, linked by hydrogen bonds, forming the rungs. Hydrogen bonding also twists the phosphate-deoxyribose backbones into a helix, thus typical DNA is a double helix.
* Genes & Genetic Instructions *
So the DNA molecule contains all of the instructions required to carry out the business of being a cell. A section of DNA may have an instruction for one particular thing, for example making a specific type of protein. Discrete units of instruction along the length of the DNA molecule are called genes.
* Why Gene Telepathy Is Important *
The study conducted by researchers at Imperial College London and the USA's National Institute of Health (NIH) reveals that genes can recognize other genes that have a similar pattern of nitrogenous bases.
The ability of genes to find each other could explain how they are able to align and swap sections of genetic information, a process called crossover or homologous recombination that is one of the things that contributes to the vast genetic diversity that emerges through sexual reproduction. Recombination is also key to our body's ability to repair DNA that has been damaged.
* Sources *
Baldwin, G. S. et al. DNA Double Helices Recognize Mutual Sequence Homology in a Protein Free Environment, Journal of Physical Chemistry B, January 2008.
Telepathic Genes Recognize Similarities in Each Other. Science Daily, January 2008.