Decoding ENCODE

On Sunday, I participated in a panel discussion of the ENCODE project and issues  related to it, with the folks from ScienceSunday via Google+ Hangouts. Ian Bosdet and I joined hosts Rajini Rao, Buddhini Samarasinghe, and Scott Lewis. to talk about ENCODE and make it accessible to those without a decade of post-graduate training in genomics If you have a spare 78 minutes, the discussion can be viewed on YouTube.

Author: Josh Witten

3 thoughts on “Decoding ENCODE”

  1. I linked to the video on my blog and posted a comment about your claim that junk DNA was predicted by evolutionary theory. Can you explain this? It doesn’t seem right to me.

    1. Larry

      Thanks for linking to the video. I was attempting to address the idea that junk DNA is a “problem” that needs to be resolved that underlies much of the rhetoric around this topic. Junk DNA is very interesting and deserves investigation, but is not “problematic” per se.

      In terms of predicting the existence of junk DNA, I think I was careful to mention that evolutionary theory would not predict the specific details of the junk DNA in the human genome. My point was that, in species with population and life history characteristics like humans, natural selection is not able to efficiently select against the expansion of non-functional sequences that each individually have marginally deleterious costs, especially given the existence of recombination induced insertions/deletions, gene duplications, transposable elements, microsatellite repeats, etc.

      Obviously, there are limits to this expansion where individual additions of non-functional sites would be more deleterious, such as transposable elements disrupting an open reading frame or excessively large introns.

      Per some of the comments at your blog, I do not object to rewriting textbooks. I just object to rewriting them when the evidence for rewriting is so much weaker than the evidence supporting the textbooks.

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