Matheson’s Intron Fairy Tale

The failure to recognize the importance of introns “may well go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of molecular biology.” –John Mattick, Molecular biologist, University of Queensland, quoted in Scientific American On Friday, May 14, I watched as Steve Meyer faced his critics–two of them anyway, Art Hunt and Steve Matheson–at Biola University in Los Angeles. Matheson had previously claimed that Meyer misrepresented introns in his book, Signature in the Cell. (Introns are non-protein-coding sequences of DNA that occur within protein-coding regions.) In a blog post dated February 14, Matheson had accused Meyer of “some combination of ignorance, sloth, and duplicity” for stating in his book that although introns do not encode proteins they nevertheless “play Read More ›

Beginning to Decipher the SINE Signal

Remember the analogy of the two moons I used yesterday to discuss the distribution of SINEs in the mouse and rat genomes? Well, I am going to use it again today, but only for a moment. Moon Mysteries and the Lunarlogos Foundation Suppose you are keenly interested in the topography of one of the moons, named Y6-9. Suppose also that the books you first select to read on the topic are popular works, written by “experts” who are “living legends.” As you read through the works, you find paragraphs here and there about how utterly decrepit Y6-9 is, and how this space body exemplifies eons of random events. The authors argue that we already knew all there was to know Read More ›

Discovering Signs in the Genome by Thinking Outside the BioLogos Box

Yesterday I promised that I would show you a mysterious genomic signal, and today I shall fulfill that promise. The previous blog was devoted to describing the linear distribution of LINEs and SINEs along mammalian chromosomal DNA. We saw that L1 retrotransposons tend to be densest in the regions where Alus and Alu-like elements are the least common and vice versa. I included the following figure from an article co-authored by Francis Collins1 that showed this compartmentalization of LINEs and SINEs along over a hundred million genetic letters of rat chromosome 10: The blue line indicates the distribution of SINEs along a 110-million base pair interval of rat chromosome 10. (From Fig. 9d of Ref. 1.) Taxon-Specific Elements: The SINEs Read More ›

Ayala and Falk Miss the Signs in the Genome

In his recent response to Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell, Francisco Ayala claimed that repetitive portions of our DNA called “Alu” sequences are “nonsensical.” Ayala wrote: “Would a function ever be found for these one million nearly identical Alu sequences? It seems most unlikely.” In his response to Ayala, Meyer showed that Ayala is factually wrong about this. According to recent technical papers in genomics, Alu sequences perform multiple functions. In a rejoinder to Meyer, Darrel Falk defended Ayala and claimed although “a number of functional regions have been discovered within Alu sequences,” there “is no question that many Alu sequences really have no function.” In my last blog, I showed that the vast majority of the genome is Read More ›

Asking Darrel Falk to Pick a Number, Any Number

I have long questioned the assumption that most genomic DNA sequences are “nonsensical” or “junk.” And given the data that have emerged over the past seven or so years, a functionalist view of genome has robust empirical support. It is for this reason that I think many of the arguments presented by the Biologos Foundation are “wrong on many counts,” to borrow a phrase from Darrel Falk. Here is an example. While reading the “critique” of Steve Meyer’s book, Signature in the Cell, by Francisco Ayala, a number struck me that I know to be incorrect. The integer that I am referring to is “25,000” and it is claimed to be the known tally of genes in our chromosomes: The Read More ›