Is junk DNA bunk? A critique of ENCODE.
ABSTRACT Do data from the Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project render the notion of junk DNA obsolete? Here, I review older arguments for junk grounded in the C-value paradox and propose a thought experiment to challenge ENCODE's ontology. Specifically, what would we expect for the number of functional elements (as ENCODE defines them) in genomes much larger than our own genome? If the number were to stay more or less constant, it would seem sensible to consider the rest of the DNA of larger genomes to be junk or, at least, assign it a different sort of role (structural rather than informational). If, however, the number of functional elements were to rise significantly with C-value then, (i) organisms with genomes larger than our genome are more complex phenotypically than we are, (ii) ENCODE's definition of functional element identifies many sites that would not be considered functional or phenotype-determining by standard uses in biology, or (iii) the same phenotypic functions are often determined in a more diffuse fashion in larger-genomed organisms. Good cases can be made for propositions ii and iii. A larger theoretical framework, embracing informational and structural roles for DNA, neutral as well as adaptive causes of complexity, and selection as a multilevel phenomenon, is needed.
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ABSTRACT: The Genome Balance Hypothesis originated from a recent study that provided a mechanism for the phenomenon of genome dominance in ancient polyploids: unique 24nt RNA coverage near genes is greater in genes on the recessive subgenome irrespective of differences in gene expression. 24nt RNAs target transposons. Transposon position effects are now hypothesized to balance the expression of networked genes and provide spring-like tension between pericentromeric heterochromatin and microtubules. The balance (coordination) of gene expression and centromere movement are under selection. Our hypothesis states that this balance can be maintained by many or few transposons about equally well. We explain known, balanced distributions of junk DNA within genomes, and between subgenomes in allopolyploids (and our hypothesis passes "the onion test" for any so-called solution to the C-value paradox). Importantly, when the allotetraploid maize chromosomes delete redundant genes, their nearby transposons are also lost; this result is explained if transposons near genes function. The Genome Balance Hypothesis is hypothetical because the position effect mechanisms implicated are not proved to apply to all junk DNA, and the continuous nature of the centromeric and gene position effects have not yet been studied as a single phenomenon. Copyright © 2015 The Author. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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ABSTRACT: Psoriasis is a cytokine-mediated skin disease that can be treated effectively with immunosuppressive biologic agents. These medications, however, are not equally effective in all patients and are poorly suited for treating mild psoriasis. To develop more targeted therapies, interfering with transcription factor (TF) activity is a promising strategy. Meta-analysis was used to identify differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in the lesional skin from psoriasis patients (n = 237). We compiled a dictionary of 2935 binding sites representing empirically-determined binding affinities of TFs and unconventional DNA-binding proteins (uDBPs). This dictionary was screened to identify "psoriasis response elements" (PREs) overrepresented in sequences upstream of psoriasis DEGs. PREs are recognized by IRF1, ISGF3, NF-kappaB and multiple TFs with helix-turn-helix (homeo) or other all-alpha-helical (high-mobility group) DNA-binding domains. We identified a limited set of DEGs that encode proteins interacting with PRE motifs, including TFs (GATA3, EHF, FOXM1, SOX5) and uDBPs (AVEN, RBM8A, GPAM, WISP2). PREs were prominent within enhancer regions near cytokine-encoding DEGs (IL17A, IL19 and IL1B), suggesting that PREs might be incorporated into complex decoy oligonucleotides (cdODNs). To illustrate this idea, we designed a cdODN to concomitantly target psoriasis-activated TFs (i.e., FOXM1, ISGF3, IRF1 and NF-kappaB). Finally, we screened psoriasis-associated SNPs to identify risk alleles that disrupt or engender PRE motifs. This identified possible sites of allele-specific TF/uDBP binding and showed that PREs are disproportionately disrupted by psoriasis risk alleles. We identified new TF/uDBP candidates and developed an approach that (i) connects transcriptome informatics to cdODN drug development and (ii) enhances our ability to interpret GWAS findings. Disruption of PRE motifs by psoriasis risk alleles may contribute to disease susceptibility.12/2015; 4(1):13. DOI:10.1186/s40169-015-0054-5
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ABSTRACT: When transcription regulatory networks are compared among distantly related eukaryotes, a number of striking similarities are observed: a larger-than-expected number of genes, extensive overlapping connections, and an apparently high degree of functional redundancy. It is often assumed that the complexity of these networks represents optimized solutions, precisely sculpted by natural selection; their common features are often asserted to be adaptive. Here, we discuss support for an alternative hypothesis: the common structural features of transcription networks arise from evolutionary trajectories of "least resistance"-that is, the relative ease with which certain types of network structures are formed during their evolution. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.Cell 05/2015; 161(4):714-723. DOI:10.1016/j.cell.2015.04.014 · 33.12 Impact Factor