A first of its kind study has added some evidence to challenge the widely accepted theory about genetic mutations: that they are completely random. The findings, published in Nature, could reshape evolutionary theories and our understanding of DNA forever.
“We always thought of mutation as basically random across the genome,” said Grey Monroe, lead author on the paper. “It turns out that mutation is very non-random and it’s non-random in a way that benefits the plant. It’s a totally new way of thinking about mutation.”
The way in which the researchers at the Max Planck Institute figured this out was by studying many mutated specimens of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, an organism commonly used as a model in genetic studies. The plants revealed that there was a pattern to their position in the genome which displayed a bias.
The team found that there were regions of the plant DNA with low mutation rates, especially in areas coding for essential genes such as ones that control growth. Here, DNA damage repair seems to be especially effective. This makes sense as these incredibly important regions in the genome need to be protected from any changes for the plant to be able to function.
Knowing this may be able to help breeders to cultivate better crops. Plus, scientists may be able to better predict genetic diseases and also develop new treatments for these.
Source study: Nature – Mutation bias reflects natural selection in Arabidopsis thaliana