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LA JOLLA, Calif. -- The mantra of molecular biology - DNA makes RNA, which makes protein - has pretty much ignored pseudogenes. Considered defective copies of DNA segments, the 20,000 pseudogenes in the human genome are thought to be non-participants in the protein-production assembly line.
Now, scientists in Japan and at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine have discovered a novel regulatory role for one pseudogene, showing that it stabilizes a similar protein-coding gene on another chromosome. When the pseudogene was disabled, protein-production was compromised, with resulting abnormal kidneys and bones in laboratory mice. When a functioning pseudogene was re-introduced into mouse embryos, the mice developed normally.