Monday, 14 September 2015

Our Genome Is ”A Complex Orchestra,” Scientists Say

Researchers compare the human genome to a complex orchestra. Image courtesy of Derek Gleeson, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Joel Kontinen

Four decades ago, Richard Dawkins came up with the view that our genes are selfish. However, the more we get to know about our genome, the more outdated his thesis has become.

Junk DNA turned out to be a Darwinian misconception.

Instead of following a bottom up type of design, our genome follows the top down model. A recent press release released by the University of Geneva likens it to a complex orchestra that, naturally, needs a conductor.

According to Professor Bart Deplancke of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne:

Genetic variation at a single genomic position impacted multiple, separated gene regulatory elements at the same time. This extensive coordination was quite surprising, much like a music conductor (i.e. genetic variant) directing all the performers (i.e. transcription factors, chromatin modifications) of a musical ensemble to change the volume (i.e. gene expression) of the music.

It would not be very logical to attribute this to the blind Darwinian watchmaker. The conductor would need to see what he (or she) is doing.

Evolution never predicted that our genomes would be very dynamic, with quality control and tiny molecular machines.

Moreover, this kind of dynamic complexity is seen in other creatures as well.


University of Geneva. 2015. The human genome: A complex orchestra. EurekAlert! (20 August).