Mobile DNA element allows conclusions on the evolution of apes
An international team of researchers that includes Christian Roos, Markus Brameier and Lutz Walter from the German Primate Center (DPZ) in Göttingen, have decoded the genome of gibbons from Southeast Asia. With this, the entire genetic information of five different species of this primate family has been sequenced for the first time.
Northern White-cheeked Gibbon male (Nomascus leucogenys)
Image: Tilo Nadler
Northern White-cheeked Gibbon female (Nomascus leucogenys)
Image: Tilo Nadler
Comparisons with the genome data of humans and our closest relatives, the great apes, show that while we all genetically have the same ancestors, the genetic information of the gibbons has changed more rapidly and stronger in the course of the evolutionary process.
The researchers could identify a new DNA element that only occurs in gibbons. This DNA element increases the mutation rate, and is thus of crucial importance for the evolutionary development. Thanks to the DNA element, the gibbon is also known as the one with the long, strong arms who elegantly moves through the forests of Southeast Asia. The study published in the current issue of Nature, allows important insights in the molecular fundamentals of the evolutionary process (Carbone et al. 2014)
The gibbons, known as small apes are genetically farther from humans than the great apes chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans. In the genealogy of the evolutionary developments of primates, the gibbons do occupy a key position. In the course of the evolutionary process, they were the first to split from the hereditary line of the great apes and humans.
„The complete sequencing of the gibbon genome was pending until now“, says Christian Roos, a scientist from the Primate Genetics Laboratory at the DPZ. “In order to fully understand the human evolution and to draw conclusions on our evolutionary roots, we need to conduct phylogenetic research of our more distant relatives.“
Genetic disorder and jumping gene sections
In their genome analysis, the researchers discovered that the genetic information of the gibbons differs in their entirety from that of humans and of apes. “The genetic information itself is similar to ours”, explains Christian Roos. “However, large segments of DNA and in such, many genes are arranged differently on the individual chromosomes.” This "chromosomal disorder" is a key feature of the gibbon genome and has probably occurred after their secession from the ancestral line of the apes and humans.
Through further research on the gibbon DNA, scientists were finally able to identify a possible cause for these changes in the genome: A jumping DNA element called LAVA transposon can be copied and integrated elsewhere in the genome. So far, transposons or jumping genes have been detected in many different organisms. However, the LAVA transposon is unique to the gibbon genome.
The special feature of this DNA element is its positioning in precisely those genes that play a role in the chromosome distribution during cell division and thus influences them. Analyses of the phylogenetic development of the gibbon line also indicate a connection to the existence of the LAVA transposons. Their first appearance can be traced back with a high probability to the time of the splitting of the gibbons from the line of apes and humans.
Genetic basis for gibbon-specific way of life
Through comparative DNA analyses, the researchers could also identify genes subjected to a positive selection. In the course of evolution, genes that favored the adaptation of the gibbons to their way of life, continued to develop. These include genes responsible for anatomical specifications such as longer arms or stronger muscles. Gibbon genes, which have undergone a positive selection are, for example TBX5, which is required for the development of the front extremities and COL1A1, responsible for the development of the protein collagen. The latter is one of the main components of connective tissues in bones, teeth and tendons.
"These genes are positively selected only in the gibbon genome", says Christian Roos. “In future projects, sequencing will be performed on other gibbon species. We hope to be able to further characterize these genes and to identify other gibbon-specific genes.”
Carbone, L. et al. (2014): Gibbon genome and the fast karyotype evolution of small apes. Nature Epub ahead of print. DOI: 10.1038/nature13679
PD Dr. Christian Roos
Primate Genetics Laboratory
German Primate Center
phone +49 551 3851-300
Dr. Susanne Diederich
German Primate Center
phone: +49 551 3851-359
The German Primate Center (DPZ) – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research conducts biological and biomedical research with primates in infection research, neuroscience and primate biology. The DPZ maintains three field stations in the tropics and is the reference and service center for all aspects of primate research. The DPZ is one of 89 research and infrastructure facilities of the Leibniz Association.
http://medien.dpz.eu/webgate/keyword.html?currentContainerId=2301 - Printable images
http://www.dpz.eu/en/info-center/media-center/video.html - video (German language)
http://www.dpz.eu/en/news/news.html - DPZ website
Dr. Susanne Diederich | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie
WPI team grows heart tissue on spinach leaves
23.03.2017 | Worcester Polytechnic Institute
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...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences