Deploying doppelgängers to distract pesky hangers-on isn't a tactic reserved for paparazzi-plagued Hollywood heartthrobs. Some genes use look-alikes as decoys to distract mobs of interfering molecules, a new study shows.
The decoys, known as pseudogenes, are defective copies of protein-encoding genes. Many pseudogenes can make RNA copies of the instructions contained within their DNA, but have flaws that prevent the next step in the process, making proteins.
Because pseudogenes don’t make proteins, most biologists have thought of the doppelgängers as vestigial copies of functioning genes But a new study, published in the June 24 Nature, shows that pseudogenes aren't dead yet, and may in fact be important regulators of their protein-producing twins.
Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.