Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Theory on evolution of essential genes is overturned by new finding


A gene passed on by fathers that plays a vital role in helping fertilised eggs to develop into adults has helped scientists overturn the idea that essential genes have always been part of the genetic makeup of a species.

The research, published in the journal Current Biology tomorrow (26 January 2005), shows that an essential ‘paternal effect’ gene was created only recently in the evolutionary history of the fruit fly, Drosophila. This finding is remarkable because it shows that new genes with new functions - including essential functions - can evolve at any time.

The researchers made the discovery as part of a project to produce the first molecular genetic characterisation of a paternal effect gene. Paternal effect genes are important because without them a fertilised egg cannot develop into an adult. Similar genes are most likely present in other animals, including humans. Using molecular techniques, the researchers found that the Drosophila paternal effect gene they were characterising was only present in the melanogaster sub-group of fruit fly, but its progenitor, or ancestor, was present in all of the different sub-groups. Using statistical information about the rate at which genes evolve, the researchers worked out that the gene was only about 1-2 million years old, and much younger than the majority of the genes in the remainder of the fruit fly genome.

This finding, that an essential gene has a relatively recent origin, overturns the conventional notion that genes with vital functions must have been created a long time ago, but raises important questions about why and how this particular gene evolved. “This discovery really changes our concept of how new gene function can evolve, which is a major issue for evolutionary biology,” said Dr Tim Karr from the University of Bath, who made the discovery with colleagues in the Centre de Genetique Moleculaire et Cellulaire in France and the University of Chicago. “It is remarkable to think that through a range of random, naturally-occurring genetic changes over a few million years, a new essential gene has evolved. Obviously other species of fruit fly don’t need this gene but they may have other genes that serve a similar function. At first the gene may have conveyed some as yet unknown benefit that eventually became essential during the course of evolution. It could even have been involved in the early processes leading to speciation of this group of fruit flies,” said Dr Karr.
Dr Steve Dorus from the University of Chicago, who collaborated on the project, will be joining the Karr laboratory at the University of Bath this month to continue studies on this, and other paternal genes. “The fact that this essential, newly-evolved gene is a male factor that is required for successful embryo development after fertilisation makes it all the more interesting. Paternal effect genes have only recently become the subject of scientific investigation, and the genetic characterisation of this gene will help further investigations in this area,” said Dr Karr.“I would be very surprised if there were not more examples of paternal effect genes spread throughout the animal kingdom. Because we know so much about the relatively simple genetic makeup of the fruit fly, it is yet another example of where Drosophila can help us understand important genetic processes throughout the animal kingdom, including humans.”

The research was funded by the Royal Society.

Andrew McLaughlin | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'
16.03.2018 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus
16.03.2018 | Rockefeller 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: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>