Common weeds on the side of the road Could be key to understanding and predicting DNA mutations. The findings in Nature are changing our understanding of evolution and could help scientists grow better plants and even help fight cancer.

“We’ve always thought that mutations are basically random throughout the genome. It turns out that mutation is very non-random and non-random in a way that benefits the plant,” said Gray Munro, associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences and lead author of the study. Totally to think about mutations.

Scientists sequenced the DNA of hundreds of individuals for three years common radish (Arabidopsis thaliana), a small herb considered the “lab rat among plants.” This is because it contains a small genome of about 120 million base pairs. For comparison, the human genome consists of about 3 billion base pairs.

Arrange these hundreds of plants Detected more than a million mutations. Among them, a non-random pattern appeared, contrary to what was expected.

At first glance, what we found contradicts the well-established theory that initial mutations are completely random and that only natural selection determines which mutations are observed in organisms, said Detlev Weigl, scientific director of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology and chief research officer. author.

Instead of random scientists Genome fragments with a low mutation rate were found. At these sites, they found vital genes, such as those involved in cell growth, to be overactive.

The plant has evolved in a way that allows it to protect the most important places from mutations. This is exciting because we can even use these discoveries to think about how to protect human genes from mutations, Weigel added.

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Knowing why certain regions of the genome mutate more than others could help breeders who rely on genetic diversity to develop better crops. Scientists can also use this information for development New cancer treatments and other mutations.