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The misnomer of pseudogenes

Words convey meaning, and the word pseudogene conveys the sense of a gene that is a sham, that is spurious, that is phoney. It is a word that is widely used in the literature on genetics, where pseudogenes are regarded as defunct relatives of functional genes. The dominant reason for studying them is because they “provide a record of how the genomic DNA has been changed without [. . .] evolutionary pressure and can be used as a model for determining the underlying rates of nucleotide substitution, insertion and deletion in the greater genome” (Source here). Recent research has challenged this assessment of these genetic elements and the textbooks need to be revised comprehensively. Nearly everything that has been widely accepted about pseudogenes has been proven false.
“Pseudogenes were long considered as junk genomic DNA: present in the genome but non-coding and without function. However, discoveries in the ancient protist T. brucei, as well as in some metazoan, indicate that pseudogene regulation is widespread in eukaryotes. Accordingly, the moniker “pseudogene” has been challenged. Interestingly, in addition to eukaryotes, pseudogenes have also been reported from bacteria, although their function remains unknown. [. . .] Once pseudogene functions are shown to occur in all sorts of organisms, including eukaryotes and prokaryotes, the concept of pseudogene will need to be substantially modified.” (p.30-31)

For more, go here.

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3 Responses to The misnomer of pseudogenes

  1. Sooooo does this mean Richard Dawkins book The selfish gene was nothing more than a scam….?

  2. I don’t know that the “selfish gene” idea was so much a scam as just a stupid idea that should never have been taken seriously. But hey, if you can sell a bunch of books and make a lot of money doing so, why not?

    Personally, however, I don’t think Dawkins was responsible for his actions. It was his selfish genes . . .

  3. Perhaps they should be called, ‘double-bluff’ genes. Or maybe even, ‘everbeenhad? genes’.

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