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"And the stars are projectors, yeah, projecting our lives down to this planet Earth." - Modest Mouse


5.26.2004

Pig & Elephant DNA Just Won't Splice 

A Reuters article observes some interesting findings in research regarding the genomic similarities between chimps and humans. It has been known that the two genomes are 98.5% identical yet, obviously, the two species are very different. Some of this difference can be explained by single letter variations in the code, but these variations are not enough to account for the large difference in phenotypes (the appearance, or morphology, of the species - the result of gene expression).
"There is also an impressive number (68,000) of small to large stretches of DNA that have been either gained or lost (these are called 'insertions or deletions', 'indels' for short) in one species or the other," the researchers wrote.

"These differences are sufficient to generate changes in most of the proteins: indeed, 83 percent of the 231 coding sequences, including functionally important genes, show differences at the amino-acid sequence level," they added.

"Our data suggest that indels within coding regions (genes) represent one of the major mechanisms generating protein diversity and shaping higher primate species."

In other words, while the genes and other DNA may look the same in chimpanzees and humans, the proteins they eventually code for can be very different.
In this manner, small variations in genotype can lead to large variations in phenotype by dramatically affecting protein composition and shape. Hence, it's just like that song by Loverboy.

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