Assumptions can be dangerous, especially in science. They usually start as the most plausible or comfortable interpretation of the available facts. But when their truth cannot be immediately tested and their flaws are not obvious, assumptions often graduate to articles of faith, and new observations are forced to fit them. Eventually, if the volume of troublesome information becomes unsustainable, the orthodoxy must collapse.
We may be witnessing such a turning point in our understanding of genetic information. The central dogma of molecular biology for the past half a century and more has stated that genetic information encoded in DNA is transcribed as intermediary molecules of RNA, which are in turn translated into the amino acid sequences that make up proteins. The prevailing assumption, embodied in the credo "one gene, one protein," has been that genes are generally synonymous with proteins. A corollary has been that proteins, in addition to their structural and enzymatic roles in cells, must be the primary agents for regulating the expression, or activation, of genes.
This article was originally published with the title The Hidden Genetic Program of Complex Organisms.