August 3, 2017 | Sal Cordova

Pinpoint Navigation and Propulsion in a Seemingly Random Soup

Non-coding sequences of DNA, sometimes considered genetic junk, may actually function to help navigate proteins to their target genes.

by Sal Cordova

Think of the difficulty of sending a package from one location to another when there are a billion possible destinations. To make this process efficient it requires infrastructure and machines that can propel themselves and navigate. It’s even more amazing if this happens in an ever changing soup of molecules within a cell.

In 2007, John Rinn discovered a lncRNA (long non-coding RNA) transcribed from DNA on human Chromosome 12 that would somehow navigate and land at a specific location on human Chromosome 2 by riding a molecular “bus” known as the Suz12 protein. It was the first example of a transcript from one chromosome influencing the expression of a gene on another chromosome. This epigenetic action, he found, was a crucial part of cell signaling for differentiating skin cells in the body. It’s why the skin cells in the sole of the foot, for instance, have different qualities than skin cells in the lid of the eye.

Amazingly, Rinn began his research suspecting all he would come up with was “hotair” rather than a real discovery. He thus named this amazing RNA molecule HOTAIR. When his research was published, the journal editors hailed it as the greatest article in their history, but the name HOTAIR was retained. It stands for ‘HOX transcript antisense RNA’.

How this feat of navigation and propulsion by the SUZ12 protein that shuttles the HOTAIR lncRNA from a specific location on Chromosome 12 to a specific location on Chromosome 2 could be accomplished in a seemingly random soup of chemicals boggles the mind. After all, there are over a billion locations in the nucleus to park HOTAIR on a particular stretch of DNA, not to mention the additional challenge that DNA is a moving target!

What Rinn’s research demonstrated is that many parts of DNA formerly thought to be junk could serve as navigational markers, like street signs as well as highways that allow molecules to sail the winds of Brownian motion and deliver molecular packages with pin-point accuracy.

Frame from simulation of DNA shuttling an enzyme. Credit: Georgia Tech / Edmond Chow / Jeffrey Skolnick

It intuitively suggests a very well conceived system of highways and shuttles where DNA plays a role. We tend to think of DNA solely as a blueprint, but DNA could also serve multiple roles as a means of navigation and propulsion!

The hypothesis that DNA serves multiple roles is furthered by a recent related development regarding proteins known as transcription factors. According to  Phys.org, “Rattling DNA hustles transcribers to targets” –

New simulations of DNA as a transport conduit could shatter the way scientists have thought about how large molecules called transcription factors diffuse on their way to carry out genetic missions, according to a study by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The simulations add important brush strokes to our picture of elusive inner mechanics of cells.

The simulations strongly support the hypothesis that, in a live cell, DNA is in constant motion, making it the dominant mover of transcription factors, to their target sites on DNA. There, the factors regulate the transcription of genetic code into life-sustaining action.

A video clip of the simulation shows how DNA motion “shuttles” transcription factors through a thicket of DNA strands. What is not mentioned is how the transcription factors are efficiently transported to their proper destination. This research only goes to show that when the popular press gives the impression we’ve got life figured out, nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s certainly possible, in fact increasingly believable, that much of the so-called junk DNA in humans is part of an elaborate 3-dimemsional structure necessary for shuttling molecules to and fro. If so, then we are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made rather than the piles of junk Darwinists would prefer to have us believe.


Sal Cordova, who has worked as a scientist, engineer, and a leader in the ID movement, has 4 science degrees and is working on a PhD. See his Author Profile for more information.

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