Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Unravelling a genetic mystery


Research by a University of Nottingham expert has shed new light on a genetic mystery that has its origins millions of years ago.

A study by Dr Angus Davison has helped to uncover new facts about the most common organic compound found on earth — a substance called cellulose. Cellulose is found in large amounts in all crops and plant life, making it one of the foundations of modern farming, human diet and the global economy.There is just one problem with it: most animals are unable to directly digest it in their own stomachs, because they lack a key gene to enable them to do this.

Up until now, only a tiny number of animals have been found to possess the gene — called a cellulase gene — that allows them to do this themselves. Instead, scientists have believed for decades that most animals rely on bacteria living in their gut to break down the cellulose so it can be converted into ‘fuel’ for the body. Humans fall into this category.

But new research by Dr Davison shows that cellulase genes are far more common than previously thought. His study has identified them in many other creatures including earthworms, sea urchins, lobsters and bees.

These surprising findings could mean a radical overhaul for much current scientific thinking about the most common organic compound on earth. They also suggest that at some point in the past, the distant ancestors of modern humans were able to break down cellulose too. And at some point between then and now, we mysteriously lost the ability to do it.

Dr Davison, of the University’s Institute of Genetics, said: ‘We found that not only are cellulases common and widespread in animals, but they can also be traced back to the last common ancestor of all animals — including Homo sapiens — more than 600 million years ago. "So in fact cellulases are not rare at all — and they have not been acquired from bacteria."

Dr Davison searched the genetic data on hundreds of species, in the search of cellulase genes. He then traced the evolutionary history of those creatures to show that the genes must have originally evolved in one of the earliest animal species.

The study, carried out jointly with Dr Mark Blaxter at the University of Edinburgh, is published online in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

Dr Angus Davison | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht ‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>