We touched on introns and exons in my bio class, but unfortunately we didn't really talk about why Eukaryotes have introns. It would seem they would have to have some purpose since prokaryotes do not have them and they evolved first chronologically, but I could easily be wrong. Did the junk sections of DNA just evolve there by some sort of randomness or necessity as opposed to an actual evolutionary advantage? Why hasn't evolution stopped us from having introns since they seem to be a 'waste' of time and DNA? Why do prokaryotes not have introns?
There is still a lot to be learned about the roles introns play in biological processes, but there are a couple of things that have been pretty well established.
There is probably more, but essentially introns enable a finer level of regulatory control. Biological complexity is often not the result of having a larger complement of genes, but of having additional layers of regulation to turn genes on and off at the right times. Prokaryotic genes are often organized into operons, and a single polycistronic mRNA will often encode multiple proteins from multiple adjacent genes. Since the biological processes required to sustain microbial life are much less complicated than those required to sustain eukaryotic life, they can get away with much less regulatory control.
Evolution - Douglas J. Futuyma, Chapter 19, p. 461
Prokaryotes can't have introns, because they have transcription coupled to translation. They don't have time/space for that, since intron splicing will stop the coupling. Eukaryotes evolved the nucleus, where splicing can be done. The ancestor of eukaryotes that developed the nucleus could afford more variability (because of introns) than species without it, so they had a greater fitness.
Bacteria can't afford high complexity compartmentalization, a process that requires a lot of available energy per gene, a eukaryotic cell can have tens, hundreds or even thousands of mitochondria that have similar energy output to a bacterial cell, while having a genome about 100-500 times smaller (16 kb of a human mitochondria compared to 4.000 kb for a E. coli cell).
I hope that clarifies your doubts, and you can see that this is a debatable answer.
Sorry for my bad English.
protected by Chris♦ Mar 3 at 19:16
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