Gulf Coast Consortia
John and Rebecca Moores Professor, Department of Biology and Biochemistry
University of Houston
Keck Seminar, Dan Graur, University of Houston
Friday, March 3, 2017
to 5:00 PM
Auditorium BioScience Research Collaborative
6500 Main St
Houston, Texas, USA
Mutational Genetic Load: Can the Human Genome be 100% Functional?
Because genomes are products of natural processes rather than “intelligent design,” all genomes
should contain functional and nonfunctional parts. The nonfunctional fraction of the genome consists
mostly of junk DNA, which is useless as well as harmless and on which selection does not operate.
In this lecture, I review the concepts of genomic function and functionlessness from an evolutionary
perspective, introduce a precise nomenclature of genomic function, and discuss the empirical
evidence for the existence of vast quantities of junk DNA within the human genome.
Finally, I show that a human genome that is 100% functional would have preposterous fertility
consequences. That is, even with very low rates of deleterious mutation, maintaining a constant
human population would require each couple in the world to produce on average 6,540,000 children
of which 6,539,998 should die before sexual maturity, which is clearly absurd. Thus, a human genome
that is 100% functional is a logical impossibility.