Some primatologists have argued that to understand human nature we must understand the behavior of apes. In the social interactions and organization of modern primates, the theory goes, we can see the evolutionary roots of our own social relationships. In the genomic era, as scientists become more adept at extracting biological meaning from an ever expanding repository of sequenced genomes, it is likely that our next of kin will again hold promising clues to our own identity.
Comparing primate genomes is an approach that can help scientists understand the genetic basis of the physical and biochemical traits that distinguish primate species. James Sikela and colleagues, for example, collected DNA from humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans to identify variations in the number of copies of individual genes among the different species. Their work is published in this month’s issue of the open-access journal, PLoS Biology.
Overall, Sikela and colleagues found more than 1,000 genes with changes in copy number in specific primate lineages. All the great ape species showed more increases than decreases in gene copy numbers, but humans showed the highest number of genes with increased copy numbers, at 134, and many of these duplicated human genes are implicated in brain structure and function.
Because some of these gene changes were unique to each of the species examined, they will likely account for some of the physiological and morphological characteristics that are unique to each species. One cluster of genes that amplified only in humans was mapped to a genomic area that appears prone to instability in human, chimp, bonobo, and gorilla. This region has undergone modifications in each of the other descendent primate species, suggesting an evolutionary role. In humans, gene mutations in this region are also associated with the inherited disorder spinal muscular atrophy. This fact, along with the observation that there are human-specific gene duplications in this region, suggests a link between genome instability, disease processes, and evolutionary adaptation.
In their genome-wide hunt for gene duplications and losses in humans and great apes, Sikela and colleagues have highlighted genomic regions likely to have influenced primate, and in particular human, evolution.
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Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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