Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Living in the genetic comfort zone: how to avoid the influence of genetic variation

27.02.2015

The phenotype of organisms is shaped by the interaction between environmental factors and their genetic constitution. A recent study by a team of population geneticists at the Vetmeduni Vienna shows that fruit flies live in a sort of genetic comfort zone at a specific temperature. The scientists found that, despite their underlying genetic differences, two separate strains of flies had a very similar gene expression pattern at 18°C. This effect of ‘canalization’, which has also been described in humans, allows organisms to continue to grow and develop stable even in the face of genetic and environmental stress. The results were published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

The information encoded in the DNA of an organism is not sufficient to determine the expression pattern of genes. This fact has been known even before the discovery of epigenetics, which refers to external modifications to the DNA that turn genes "on" or "off". These modifications do not change the DNA sequence, but instead, they affect how genes are expressed.


Laboratory fruit flies live in special glass containers.

Photo: Michael Bernkopf/Vetmeduni Vienna

Another, less known mechanism called canalization keeps organisms robust despite genetic mutations and environmental stressors. If an organism experiences environmental or genetic perturbations during its development, such as extreme living conditions or genetic mutations, canalization acts as a way of buffering these disturbances. The organism remains stable and can continue to develop without recognizable changes.

A comfort zone in the fly genome

Christian Schlötterer at the Institute of Population Genetics and his colleagues studied the mechanism of canalisation in fruit flies. The researchers subjected two genetically distinct strains of fruit flies, Oregon and Samarkand, to different temperatures (13°C, 18°C, 23°C and 29°C). Subsequently, they analysed the variation in gene expression in response to the different temperatures. The results revealed a homogenous pattern of gene expression among the two strains at 18°C. No matter whether the flies were from the Oregon or to the Samarkand strain, their gene expression was almost indistinguishable.

“The flies’ genetic comfort zone appears to be located at 18°C. “As soon as the flies leave the comfort zone, move to either higher or lower temperatures, the gene expression of the two strains varies dramatically” Schlötterer explains.

Buffering the genotype

The effect of canalization was first described in 1942, when researchers pointed out that organisms remain stable in their external appearance despite different environmental circumstances or genetic mutations. This sort of developmental buffering helps to stabilize organismal growth.

“If an organism develops along the canalization pathway, or along the comfort zone, mutations can accumulate without being expressed. Once an organisms leaves the canalized range, those hidden genetic variations can be expressed and become visible. The phenomenon is called decanalization”, Schlötterer explains.

Decanalization as the origin of complex genetic disease

A publication by U.S. researcher Greg Gibson in the journal Nature (Paper-Link) proposes that diseases such as diabetes, asthma, depression and cardiovascular disease are the consequence of genetic decanalization. He describes how migration, diet, smoking, air pollution and psychological stress can lead to stress-mediated decanalization and therefore cause certain complex genetic diseases in humans.
“Genetic information alone does not determine whether we stay healthy or not. It is the complex interaction of environmental conditions and genetic variation that needs to be considered,” says Schlötterer.

Service:
The article „Temperature stress mediates decanalization and dominance of gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster”, by Jun Chen, Viola Nolte and Christian Schlötterer will be published on the 26th of February 2015 at 8 pm (CET) in the journal PLOS Genetics.

About the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna in Austria is one of the leading academic and research institutions in the field of Veterinary Sciences in Europe. About 1,300 employees and 2,300 students work on the campus in the north of Vienna which also houses five university clinics and various research sites. Outside of Vienna the university operates Teaching and Research Farms. http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at

Scientific Contact:
Prof. Christian Schlötterer
Institute of Population Genetics
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 676-3544155
christian.schloetterer@vetmeduni.ac.at

Released by:
Susanna Kautschitsch
Science Communication / Public Relations
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-1153
susanna.kautschitsch@vetmeduni.ac.at

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at/en/infoservice/presseinformation/press-releases-2015/...

Dr. Susanna Kautschitsch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells
22.08.2017 | National University Health System

nachricht Biochemical 'fingerprints' reveal diabetes progression
22.08.2017 | Umea University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Meter-sized single-crystal graphene growth becomes possible

22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells

22.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>