In eukaryotic genetics, the one-gene/one-protein concept has, for the most part, breathed its last. Researchers have rallied behind mechanisms such as alternative splicing, which may allow a lowly 30,000-gene genome to produce the dizzying variety of proteins that some believe is necessary to produce beings as complex as humans.

Alternative splicing--the post-transcriptional editing process that can result in various mRNAs--was previously seen as an interesting but relatively uncommon sideshow to the big-tent events covered in central dogma: DNA begets RNA begets protein. Now, thanks to a wave of new bioinformatics databases, techniques, and studies, alternative splicing has emerged as not only pervasive, but perhaps as a central regulatory mechanism. And it may not be alone. A previously unnoticed glut of premature stop codons in usable exons suggests a larger role for RNA decay mechanisms previously associated with quality control. Cousins such as alternative polyadenylation might play a similar role. These...

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