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Random sequences are an abundant source of bioactive RNAs or peptides

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Neme,  Rafik
Department Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Amador,  Cristina I.
Department Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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McConnell,  Ellen
Max-Planck Research Group Experimental Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Tautz,  Diethard
Department Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Neme, R., Amador, C. I., Yildirim, B., McConnell, E., & Tautz, D. (2017). Random sequences are an abundant source of bioactive RNAs or peptides. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 1: 0127. doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0127.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002E-8F97-0
Abstract
It is generally assumed that new genes arise through duplication and/or recombination of existing genes. The probability that a new functional gene could arise out of random non-coding DNA is so far considered to be negligible, since it seems unlikely that such a RNA or protein sequence could have an initial function that influences the fitness of an organism. We have here tested this question systematically, by expressing clones with random sequences in E . coli and subjecting them to competitive growth. Contrary to expectations, we find that random sequences with bioactivity are not rare. In our experiments we find that up to 25% of the evaluated clones enhance the growth rate of their cells and up to 52% inhibit growth. Testing of individual clones in competition assays confirms their activity and provides an indication that their activity could be exerted either by the transcribed RNA or the translated peptide. This suggests that transcribed and translated random parts of the genome could indeed have a high potential to become functional. The results also suggest that random sequences may become an effective new source of molecules for studying cellular functions, as well as for pharmacological activity screening.