Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Gene - In an Identity Crisis

NYTimes Science | New large-scale studies of DNA are causing researchers to rethink the very nature of genes. They no longer conceive of a typical gene as a single chunk of DNA encoding a single protein. “It cannot work that way,” There are simply too many exceptions to the conventional rules for genes.

It turns out, for example, that several different proteins may be produced from a single stretch of DNA. Most of the molecules produced from DNA may not even be proteins, but another chemical known as RNA. The familiar double helix of DNA no longer has a monopoly on heredity. Other molecules clinging to DNA can produce striking differences between two organisms with the same genes. And those molecules can be inherited along with DNA.

The gene, in other words, is in an identity crisis.