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Is the genome like a computer program?

G. Dellaire popa0206 at po-box.mcgill.ca
Sat Apr 15 14:35:42 EST 1995

In article <Pine.3.07.9504140953.B28952-e100000 at dev.gdb.org>,
   rrobbins at GDB.ORG (Robert Robbins) wrote:

>Taken all together then, the expression of the human genome involves the
>simultaneous expression and (potential) interaction of something probably
>in excess of 10**18 parallel processes.  

Just curious, but how do you account then for the fact of imprinting and 
silencing of those parallel sets of instructions (i.e. alleles) such that 
you only actually have one "program" running.  This would bring to light
the idea of gene dosage, and what analog in informatics would pertain to 
such a mechanism?

>There is an entire body of literature that treats the linguistic
>properties of DNA.  If you are really interested, you should read a lot of
>it before jumping to quick interpretations.  However, you should also bear
>in mind that DNA involves the coding of a "language" on a mass-storage
>device, it is not the direct expression of a language.

On this point, it is becoming widely accepted that the actual structure of
genome and not just the linear sequence may "encode" sets of instructions
for the "reading and accessing" of this genetic code. Best illustrated
by large changes in genomic structure that affects the accessiblity of 
of various regions of the genome to be  "read" during development at specific
times and silenced afterwards.

Therefore, a second level of language is the overall code itself.  Sort of 
like the letters make up words (commands for the program), and different 
gene are like sentences... thus context is important for understanding the
code.  The context is provided by the supporting paragraphs which could represent
genetic domains with in the genome (context can be spatial, what tissue;
or temporal, what time of development).  And the overall story provides an 
impression and message in itself.

G. Dellaire
Exp. Medicine Mcgill
Red Cross Montreal
E-mail popa206 at po-box.mcgill.ca

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