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Microbes routinely flout DNA code

Posted on May 24 2014 | IANS

New York, May 24 : Contrary to popular assumptions that all living creatures follow the instructions encoded into DNA, organisms routinely flout the genetic rules.

"This study highlights the malleability of the genetic code," Farren Isaacs of Yale University in West Haven in the US was quoted as saying.

The researchers studied the DNA and RNA of microbes from 1,776 places, including 17 locations in the human body.

While looking for 'recoding' events - instances in which the microbe interprets the genetic code differently from the way most organisms do, the researchers found that microbes found in humans were particularly prone to recoding.

The team looked specifically for events in which stop codons - genetic sequences that normally tell an organism to finish making a protein - instead send a 'go' signal, telling the organism to add another amino acid to the growing protein.

The finding may have implications for the design of synthetic life, Nature reported.

By designing organisms that break the genetic rules, researchers may one day make novel life forms resistant to viral infection and stop synthetic life forms from infecting unintended hosts.

The study appeared in the journal Science.

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