Noncoding DNA

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In genetics, noncoding DNA describes components of an organism's DNA sequences that do not encode for protein sequences. In many eukaryotes, a large percentage of an organism's total genome size is noncoding DNA, although the amount of noncoding DNA, and the proportion of coding versus noncoding DNA varies greatly between species.

Much of this DNA has no known biological function and at one time was sometimes referred to as "Junk DNA". However, many types of noncoding DNA sequences do have known biological functions, including the transcriptional and translational regulation of protein-coding sequences. Other noncoding sequences have likely but as-yet undetermined function, an inference from high levels of homology and conservation seen in sequences that do not encode proteins but appear to be under heavy selective pressure.

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Fraction of noncoding genomic DNA

The amount of total genomic DNA varies widely between organisms, and the proportion of coding and noncoding DNA within these genomes varies greatly as well. More than 98% of the human genome does not encode protein sequences, including most sequences within introns and most intergenic DNA.[1]

While overall genome size, and by extension the amount of noncoding DNA, are correlated to organism complexity, there are many exceptions. For example, the genome of the unicellular Polychaos dubium (formerly known as Amoeba dubia) has been reported to contain more than 200 times the amount of DNA in humans.[2] The pufferfish Takifugu rubripes genome is only about one eighth the size of the human genome, yet seems to have a comparable number of genes; approximately 90% of the Takifugu genome is noncoding DNA[1] and most of the genome size difference appears to lie in the noncoding DNA. The extensive variation in nuclear genome size among eukaryotic species is known as the C-value enigma or C-value paradox.[3]

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