Precious junk

By Joanna Marchant SOMETHING strange is going on. Viruses all over the world are preserving a stretch of genetic material that until now was considered redundant. Given that DNA with no function tends to change rapidly because of random mutation, this suggests that this particular piece of “junk” DNA must be of some use to the viruses. Jim Van Etten and his colleagues at the University of Nebraska found the mysterious sequence within a gene carried by chlorella viruses. These viruses live in algae in lakes around the world,
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