Por qué el código genético es más complejo de lo requerido

Científicos de la Universidad de Bath han desarrollado esta nueva teoría que, según creen, ayudará a resolver el problema que les ha desconcertado desde que se supo que las “palabras” de tres letras, conocidas como codones, son leídas del código genético y traducidas para obtener uno de los 20 aminoácidos posibles. Estos aminoácidos son entonces ensamblados en el orden indicado por el código de ADN y plegados en formas complejas para formar una proteína específica.

Como el “alfabeto” del ADN contiene cuatro letras, llamadas bases, hay 64 palabras de tres letras disponibles en el diccionario del ADN, ya que matemáticamente es posible producir 64 palabras de tres letras cada una, a partir de la combinación de cuatro letras distintas.

Pero, ¿por qué debería haber 64 palabras en el diccionario del ADN si sólo van a traducirse en 20 aminoácidos?, y sobre todo, ¿por qué se ha desarrollado un proceso que es más complejo de lo necesario? Estas incógnitas han intrigado a los científicos durante los últimos 40 años.

Docenas de expertos han sugerido hipótesis para solucionar el acertijo, pero éstas han sido rápidamente descartadas o fallaron en explicar detalles relevantes.

Una de las rarezas del código genético es que hay grupos de codones que traducen el mismo aminoácido. Por ejemplo, la leucina puede ser traducida de seis codones diferentes, mientras algunos aminoácidos, que tienen funciones igualmente importantes y son traducidos en la misma cantidad, tienen simplemente uno.

La nueva teoría se fundamenta en una idea original sugerida por Francis Crick, uno de los descubridores de la estructura del ADN, de que el código de tres letras evolucionó de un código de dos letras más simple.

Los investigadores de la Universidad Bath sugieren que el código en “doblete” primigenio era leído en tríos, pero leyéndose activamente sólo los dos primeros pares de bases (“prefijos”) o los dos últimos (“sufijos”).

Combinando conjuntos de estos códigos de doblete juntos, los científicos pueden replicar la tabla de aminoácidos, y explicar por qué algunos pueden ser traducidos por grupos de 2, 4 ó 6 codones.

La nueva teoría también señala que dos aminoácidos, ajenos al sistema de doblete, parecen ser “adquisiciones” relativamente recientes del código genético. Puesto que estos aminoácidos (glutamina y asparagina) son incapaces de mantener su forma a determinadas temperaturas altas, se cree que un entorno caluroso como el de las zonas termales pobladas hoy por extremófilos fue lo que evitó su incorporación al código genético, permitiendo en cambio la de otros. Por tanto, cabe pensar que el ancestro común más antiguo de toda la vida del planeta fue un organismo que habitaba en un entorno muy caliente, como por ejemplo una fumarola termal en una zona volcánica.

FUENTE: www.solociencia.com

43 Responses to “Por qué el código genético es más complejo de lo requerido”

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