On “duons” and cargo cult science

ResearchBlogging.orgYesterday a paper (Exonic Transcription Factor Binding Directs Codon Choice and Affects Protein Evolution) from John Stam’s lab at University of Washington was published in Science. They claim that „We found that ~15% of human codons are dual-use codons (“duons”) that simultaneously specify both amino acids and TF recognition sites. Duons are highly conserved and have shaped protein evolution, and TF-imposed constraint appears to be a major driver of codon usage bias.” For the non-scientists reader, this means they claim that a some portion of the human genome, which has a function (to code for proteins), also has a second, unrelated function (to be bound by a special class of proteins, called transcription factors (TFs), which control which regions of the genome are activated). They call these regions with double function „duons”, and also claim that the second function imposes constraints on how the first function is achieved and can evolve. When I read the paper, my gut reaction was this:duons_email

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