HERVs and disease and junk DNA

I love junk DNA.

Well, thats an understatement– I mean I love is SO MUCH I created a blog dedicated to a particular form of junk DNA, endogenous retroviruses.

I love how we can learn fantastic things about organisms (and their diseases) from, basically, dumpster-diving though millions and millions of years of mistakes and accidents and chance and evolution.

So its hard not to take it a touch personally that Creationists HATE junk DNA. They spend a lot of effort trying to make it not exist anymore (seems like a silly waste of time considering the fact epigenetic control of ERVs and accumulation of deleterious mutations makes this form of junk DNA functionally ‘not exist anymore’ anyway, but I digress), to the point where one of them Paul Myers Stephen Nelson god I cant tell the difference between any of them Jonathan Wells, wrote a book on The Myth of Junk DNA.

Heh. The stuff I study every day is a myth, you guys. Im getting my PhD in theology. Hehehe.

ANYWAY, Larry Moran went through and already reviewed/critiqued it, so I dont have much to add. But there is this tiny comment Larry wrote that I can address:

Almost 50% of our genome consists of defective transposons and viruses (junk) but Wells never tells his readers why that huge amount of DNA has a function.

The ERV field has been steadily moving towards the idea that understanding wayward activation of ERV junk will help us better diagnose and treat diseases.

OBVIOUSLY, the function of ERV junk was planned by Our Christian Lord 6000 years ago when He Specially Created humans, and that function is so humans can diagnose and treat the diseases (… given to them by Our Lord Who Art In Heaven or whatever). An indication/cause of any number of cancers or ALS or MS or any number of other diseases– ERVs are The Christian Gods fire alarms!

In the case of utilizing ERVs as a potential target in anti-HIV therapies, think of ERVs as like Noahs rainbow. See, Jesus sent HIV-1 to kill all the homoz (since even Jesus couldnt figure out a homo-specific flooding strategy), but hes like TOTALLY taken it back, now, and is like really sorry, so he gave us ERVs to help clean up the HIV-1 mess he made (OBVIOUSLY).

And like, He also put ERVs in pigs so we would feel the joy of accomplishment by taking them out of pigs so we can use pigs for organ transplants (again, OBVIOUSLY). Imagine how terrible it would be if we could have just used pigs as-is off the shelf. Thats not fun at all.

Im not even mentioning other OBVIOUS functions like making white chickens and mice with tiny balls.

I mean, it all really makes sense if you stop to think about it, Larry. ERVs have lots of functions that are OBVIOUSLY not post-hoc rationalizations for a religious myth that is way past its expiration date… lol.


  1. #1 Alex
    November 16, 2011

    I love junk DNA.

    Junk DNA is the 99% of the genome.

  2. #2 Justicar
    November 16, 2011

    since even Jesus couldnt figure out a homo-specific flooding strategy

    He’s never watched a good gangbang ending in a bukkake scene then. That’s just what a team of motivated homos can do on an average weekend; surely it is true that Jesus was that hung (for days like it says in the Bible) such that he could easily come up with a flood situation.

    Although, he’d have to be sneaky – we’d see it coming a mile away.

  3. #3 SLC
    November 16, 2011

    The individual Ms. Smith is referring to spells his name Meyer (e.g. Steven Meyer). One not familiar with the ID clowns might think that Paul Myers refers to the illustrious PZ.

  4. #4 g bruno
    November 16, 2011

    “Virolution” by Frank Ryan has these figures
    Human Genome
    1.5% protein coding genes?
    9% HERV remnants and LTR
    21% LINE
    13% SINE
    3% DNA Transposons
    52.5% Unknown(sic)

    LINE-1 relates to pol SINE relates to env (HERV common elements)

    So 43% is ERV related…

    a new paradigm for evolution if ERVS are such a major part
    parallel transfer becomes a major player.

    Why is all this kept?
    One possibility: Provide a landing area for ERV that doesnt disrupt “functioning” DNA? – an expensive defense mechanism?

  5. #5 Nick J
    November 16, 2011

    Came across this while studying for my Phd comps ­čÖé I study genome size diversity in animals. In response to g bruno, all this extra DNA is probably kept due to the absence of selection against it (until a certain point when it becomes TOO costly to maintain). SOME of the transposable elements in our genome do gain a function (e.g. some maintain telomeres in Drosophila) and this cool SINE in our genome (called Alu, which there are over one million copies in our genome!!) has a few known functions other than just sitting there.
    Evolution rocks!

  6. #6 Justicar
    November 16, 2011

    Nick J., can you explain more about rocks evolving? (I jest)

  7. #7 David
    November 16, 2011

    Does the ERV DNA that’s in our genome get repaired by the DNA repair mechanisms in our cells? And if it doesn’t does that mean that it eventually just becomes random and meaningless DNA sequences?

    Also why do cells bother keeping this DNA around? Doesn’t it require energy to replicate that junk DNA. Why wouldn’t that DNA just be removed or is the amount of energy required to replicate it not worth worrying about?

  8. #8 Amy
    March 5, 2012


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