Biological noise and the burden of proof


But this does not change the fact that we strongly disagree with the fundamental argument put forward by Clark et al., which is that the genomic area corresponding to transcripts is more important than their relative abundance. This viewpoint makes little sense to us. Given the various sources of extraneous sequence reads, both biological and laboratory-derived (see below), it is expected that with sufficient sequencing depth the entire genome would eventually be encompassed by reads. Our statement that “the genome is not as not as pervasively transcribed as previously reported” stems from the fact that our observations relate to the relative quantity of material detected.

Of course, some rare transcripts (and/or rare transcription) are functional, and low-level transcription may also provide a pool of material for evolutionary tinkering. But given that known mechanisms—in particular, imperfections in termination (see below)—can explain the presence of low-level random (and many non-random) transcripts, we believe the burden of proof is to show that such transcripts are indeed functional, rather than to disprove their putative functionality.

Author: Mike White

Genomes, Books, and Science Fiction

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