Mysterious DNA Found in Mud is Seemingly Capable of Assimilating Genes From Different Organisms

Mysterious DNA Found in Mud is Seemingly Capable of Assimilating Genes From Different Organisms

Scientists have been puzzled for so long for the DNA molecule’s (Deoxyribonucleic acid) ability to carry genetic instructions for the functioning, growth, development, and reproduction of all the known organisms, as well as some viruses. The presence of such complex information obviously requires an intelligent source, one that must be way beyond the boundaries of a human mind.

But things can become even weirder, as announces the discovery of new “Borg” DNA strands that seem capable of assimilating genes from multiple different organisms from the surrounding environment. The strands were discovered in a backyard from California.

A remarkable discovery

Jill Banfield, who is a geomicrobiologist from the University of California, Berkeley, seems very excited about the new discovery, as she stated via Twitter:

I haven’t been this excited about a discovery since CRISPR,
We found something enigmatic that, like CRISPR, is associated with microbial genomes.

Banfield’s own backyard was the place where the first of the Borgs was discovered. Along with geneticist Basem Al-Shayeb from UC Berkeley, Banfield found a DNA structure that contains roughly a million base pairs.

Looking closely at the sequence, the scientists found more incredible stuff: over half of the genes were new, there were mirrored sequences at the end of each of the strands, and there were also structures consistent with self-replicating ability.

The peculiar DNA structures belong to a class named extrachromosomal elements (aka ECEs), and they can be found outside of the chromosomes. ECEs are replicating and huge, and they are located inside or outside the cell’s core.

The researchers wrote in their study paper, as quoted by

We can neither prove that they are archaeal viruses or plasmids or mini-chromosomes, nor can we prove that they are not.

The newfound structures were described in a paper uploaded for the preprint server bioRxiv.

Cristian Antonescu

Even since he was a child, Cristian was staring curiously at the stars, wondering about the Universe and our place in it. Today he's seeing his dream come true by writing about the latest news in astronomy. Cristian is also glad to be covering health and other science topics, having significant experience in writing about such fields.

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