Tuesday, February 4, 2014

IDiots discover that RNA has secondary structure

I suppose we should be happy whenever some IDiots manage to educate themselves but somehow I find it quite sad when it takes thirty or forty years. Here's an example of a somewhat late-blossoming IDiot who posts on Evolution News & Views (sic): RNA Shows Design, Too. She doesn't sign her name to the post—I think I know why.

Here's what she just discovered ...

RNA differs from DNA in one of the sugars that makes up its backbone and one of the bases that makes up its side branches (uracil instead of thymine); it is also usually found in single strands instead of DNA's double helix. New discoveries, though, are showing RNA does far more than passively transfer DNA's information to other places. It, too, is a masterpiece of intelligent design and function.

A paper in Nature describes how information is stored not only in RNA's base sequence, but in its folds. Because RNA has more degrees of freedom, it can take on a wide variety of forms not possible for DNA. "RNA has a dual role as an informational molecule and a direct effector of biological tasks. The latter function is enabled by RNA's ability to adopt complex secondary and tertiary folds and thus has motivated extensive computational and experimental efforts for determining RNA structures," the authors begin (emphasis added). In their conclusion, they say, "We identify hundreds of specific mRNA regions that are highly structured in vivo, and we show for three examples that these structures affect protein expression."
The paper by Rouskin et al. (2014) reports on the development of new software to detect secondary structure in RNA. This is news for IDiots who think that "new discoveries" show that RNA is capable of catalysis and other functions.

Think about that for a minute. This is 2014, it's 25 years since Sidney Altman and Tom Cech were awarded the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and more that 30 years since undergraduates were routinely taught about catalytic RNAs in introductory biochemistry courses. Those IDiots sure are slow learners.
In other words, the structure, not just the sequence, carries functional information.
Amazing. Sounds like they've never heard of the idea that ribosomal RNA catalyzes peptide bond formation and that it does so through secondary structure. They've never heard of self-splicing introns. All they have to do is read an introductory textbook of biochemistry or molecular biology.

Now if you connect this amazing new bit of information to the equally astonishing (not!) news that some lincRNAs have a function, you get this ....
More design found in what was formerly called junk; more information found parallel to existing information in RNA; more power found in the collective energy of intelligent agents. Why are you not surprised?
The real question is why are IDiots surprised by routine information that even high school students know?

And what does this have to do with intelligent agents? Has this person answered the quiz?