Researchers at the University of Bergen are now able to present new information on the HOX genes – the “software” to design animals. The findings are published in today’s issue of Nature.
Some years ago researchers at the Sars Centre for Marine Molecular Biology at the UoB discovered the smallest genome among vertebrates in a tiny urochordate called Oikopleura dioica. The organism is five millimetres long and the genome consists of only 70 million megabases (Mb). Although the human genome is forty times bigger in comparison, this organism makes an excellent model. Studies of the compact oikopleura-genome may contribute to shedding new light on the human genome, and the researchers have made several surprising discoveries so far.
In the research that serves as the basis for a new article in Nature researchers at the Sars have examined the so-called HOX genes. These are important genes that are common for all animals. They play a role in controlling the development from the fertilised egg to the formation of the general body structure. In humans these genes ensure that the fingers and the ribs take the right shape and length.
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