Friday, June 5, 2009

Unique Genes


A very important research paper was published October 2008 by Eugene Koonin and Yuri Wolf of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). I already discussed it back in February (here) when I was writing a series about biological origins. It is called, "Genomics of bacteria and archaea: the emerging dynamic view of the prokaryotic world," from Nucleic Acids Research, 36:21, pp 6688-6719.

The paper reports on the gene make-ups of bacteria and archaea. Archaea are a group of organisms that were thought to be bacteria until the 1970's, but were found too different to group in the same category.

The reason this paper and the research it reflects is so important is that as the researchers determine the specific gene sequences in more and more organisms, they are finding a pattern. First, there is a small core of genes that appears almost unchanged in most of the organisms (what they call "highly conserved"). Second, there is a larger amount of genes that are "moderately common." And last but not least, is a huge amount of genes that appear in one or just a few organisms (are "narrowly distributed"). However, these statistics should not be confused with the gene make-up in a particular organism. There you will find the small core of common genes, a larger set of moderately common genes, and a smaller set of unique genes (the unique genes are a larger group of genes but a smaller percentage in each individual organism).

The graph above is from the article. It is called a self-organizing map or SOM. It shows the spaces between groups of genes, called COGs (Clusters of Orthologous Groups). The "Orthologous" in that name means "coming from a common ancestor." The spaces between the isolated clusters shows that there is no progressive, Darwinian relationship between these organisms. They are all unique in certain ways. And the gene groups themselves each had to become functional on their own--they did not inherit them from other groups in a Darwinian way. This makes the origin of life much more difficult to support by Darwinian theory.

The authors of the paper and many other scientists want to quickly claim that a new phenomenon, Horizontal (or Lateral) Gene Transfer, can explain these new findings. HGT is the transfer of genes between organisms. But they are wrong to suppose that HGT can handle the vastly improbable odds of the existence of all these unique functional genes any more than gene mutation could have. First of all, you have to have functional genes before they can be transferred. I have touched upon HGT here. As the information about biological life increases, I hope that more and more people realize the immensity of these discoveries.

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I am now finished, for at least a while, with Intelligent Design Theory. There are surely more things I could say, but I've covered a lot. If you are interested, please see my ID link in the right column and read the past posts. I am not an expert, although I have a bachelor's degree in animal science and have been able to learn a lot on my own. I feel I can introduce the subject to others, but at this point I don't have the inclination to delve into the advanced mathematics and chemistry of the subject. I don't want to spend all my time trying to master new fields of study like biological computing and genetic algorithms. I hope the next generation will enjoy the adventure of learning more and more about God's world.

And yet, as I move onto other things, I can't give up ID completely. The physiology of biological life is startling, and each time I look at a new "Molecule of the Month" at the RCSB Protein Data Bank web site, I am amazed. I give you these links for your own pursuit of knowledge of biological structures. They show wonderful pictures and describe them in understandable language. I'm also adding a link on the right column to Molecules of the Month at RCSB (Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics).

We praise God for His awesome, beautiful Creation.

Update 1/20/2013: My interest in Intelligent Design Theory has changed to what is called "Special Creationism," the belief that God created species, including humans, separately and directly.

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