Vast numbers of noncoding regulatory sequences may lurk in nonconserved DNA that are not detected by techniques typically used to identify these sequences, suggests research appearing online this week in Science. These findings have already triggered plans for subsequent investigations to uncover functional DNA that previous studies may have missed."Functional noncoding sequences can exist below the radar of current predictions," coauthor Andrew McCallion told The Scientist. These sequences could prove novel targets for mutation and therapeutic screens, coauthor Shannon Fisher added.Current methods that identify functional noncoding DNA focus on comparing genomes to find conserved sequences, on the assumption that conservation over great evolutionary distances indicates selective pressure to preserve critical mechanisms. The researchers discovered that even though noncoding regions apparently are not conserved between the human developmental gene RET and its zebrafish counterpart ret, nearly all of the human noncoding regulatory sequences discovered at RET could also function...

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