The Complex Truth About ‘Junk DNA’

Genomes hold immense quantities of noncoding DNA. Some of it is essential for life, some seems useless, and some has its own agenda.

Imagine the human genome as a string stretching out for the length of a football field, with all the genes that encode proteins clustered at the end near your feet. Take two big steps forward; all the protein information is now behind you.

The human genome has three billion base pairs in its DNA, but only about 2 percent of them encode proteins. The rest seems like pointless bloat, a profusion of sequence duplications and genomic dead ends often labeled “junk DNA.” This stunningly thriftless allocation of genetic

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