03
Dec
09

A new metaphor

So, I’m sure my loyal readers (all ten of them) are familiar with the “DNA sequence as information” metaphor, but a recent publication brought to my attention by ERV has illustrated a point that template molecules (in this case, prions) which catalyze reactions (folding of a protein) is capable of “mutation” by minor changes in conformation. DNA sequences similarly change conformation quite frequently (such as “TATA boxes” binding TBP causing the DNA to partially unwind and bend). We can refer to DNA sequences, because of this, as a reactive mold (mould) for new synthesis of new molecules. Like any mold, occasionally “imperfections” (mutations or one component where something else should be) are present. This mold is capable of reproducing itself because the master mold and the master pattern go back together once used and can be used to make replicas of each other. Similar to the molding process, errors or imperfections in the mold are passed on through progressive “generations” of the reproduction of additional molds and patterns.

We can take this metaphor a bit further before it breaks down. The imperfections in this mold alter the function of the part which is made from this mold. These imperfections can make the part work better, worse, or have no effect. For instance, a bump in the tooth of a gear will make the gear wear faster, but dimples in the corresponding gear can result in this problem being resolved.

Another interesting result is that we have the option of referring to RNA as a “lost wax” or the interim mold or the product, depending, of course, on the destination of this RNA.

Questions, comments, observations, criticisms?

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