Country: United States
Date: May 2005
Is there any significance of intron sequence?
The more we learn about introns, the more we realize that they are, in
fact, extremely important. It used to be believed that introns are mere
"junk" - after all, if they don't actually code for anything, then what
significance could they possibly have. However, we are beginning to
understand that introns have very important gene-regulatory functions.
For example, they may be spliced out in various alternative ways,
allowing a single gene to encode several varying versions of the same
protein under different circumstances. It turns out that patterns in
gene regulation are at least as important as the genes themselves. And
introns play important roles in gene regulation.
There are a couple of good recent Scientific American articles on this
"The Unseen Genome" (November, 2003) and "The Hidden Genetic Program of
Complex Organisms" (October, 2004).
One of the functions of introns is that they regulate the frequency of
transcription (messenger RNA synthesis) of the neighboring exons. Some
scientists theorize that they may serve as starting material for the
evolution of new genes. Do a search on Google under "intron functions" and
you will get many articles on how they function.
Ron Baker, Ph.D.
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Update: June 2012