The term junk DNA refers to those portions of the genome which appear to have no specific purpose. But a team from IBM has identified patterns, or “motifs”, that were found both in the junk areas of the genome and those which coded for proteins. The presence of the motifs in junk DNA suggests these portions of the genome may have an important functional role. The findings are reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. But they will have to be verified by experimenters in the lab, the scientists behind the work point out.

Dr Andrew McCallion, who was not an author on the new paper, commented: “Up until not so long ago, we were under the impression that the vast majority of information in the genome, if not all of it, was encoded in those stretches of DNA that encoded proteins.

“We now understand there is much more complexity involved,” Dr McCallion, from the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, US, told the BBC News website.

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