Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


UF scientists reveal ancient origin of vertebrate skeleton


Unlovable lamprey holds clues to skeletal evolution

University of Florida scientists have found that people have an ancient skeleton in their closets - a skeleton personified today by a jawless, eel-like fish. It turns out lampreys, long thought to have taken a different evolutionary road than almost all other backboned animals, may not be so different after all, especially in terms of the genetics that govern their skeletal development, according to findings to be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

UF scientists found the same essential protein that builds cartilage in this odd animal - it spends the first five years of its development in the larval stage before it finally morphs into a boneless fish - is none other than collagen. This vital structural molecule is found in all vertebrates with backbones and jaws, including humans.

"It was thought collagen was a relatively recent invention in vertebrate evolution that unites us with reptiles, amphibians, sharks and bony fishes, while the lamprey skeleton was based on quite different proteins," said Martin Cohn, Ph.D., a developmental biologist and associate professor with the UF departments of zoology and anatomy and cell biology. "Knowing that lampreys also use collagen to build their skeletons makes sense. Lampreys and jawed vertebrates inherited the same genetic program for skeletal development from our common ancestor."

Lampreys live today in the Great Lakes and other freshwater bodies that connect to the sea. But they are considered a nuisance, largely because of their unsettling appearance and demeanor - picture a leech longer than your forearm with a rasp-like mouth that flares open at the end of its body.

Still, the lamprey and its cousin, the hagfish, offer insight into the early Cambrian period 540 million years ago, when multicellular animals first began to make shell and other hard body parts. About 40 million years into the process, jawed and jawless vertebrates branched into different paths from the starting point, like the two ascending lines in the letter "V."

"The lamprey is like the great-, great-, great-aunt descended from the earliest backboned animal," said Michael Miyamoto, Ph.D., a professor and associate chairman of UF’s zoology department. "Our question was whether the earliest vertebrates used a collagen recipe or a non-collagen recipe to form their skeletons, and by examining the lamprey, we found a shared recipe. Because of the lamprey, we know it is much more ancient genetic pathway that activates the collagen matrix."

Animal collagen, often associated with the full lips of movie stars, is used for a variety of medical purposes, including reconstructive surgery. But UF Genetics Institute researchers were interested in a material known as type II collagen - the primary structural molecule for jawed vertebrates for at least 500 million years. It is essential in the human body, forming cartilage throughout embryonic skeleton and generally serving as a framework for building bone.

With GuangJun Zhang, Ph.D., a graduate student in zoology, the research team used gene cloning and gene sequencing analysis to demonstrate two type II collagen genes are expressed during the development of the lamprey’s cartilaginous skeleton. In addition, they isolated a gene called Sox9, a regulator of collagen gene activity in vertebrates.

The results indicate the collagen-based skeleton evolved before the jawed and jawless vertebrates split into different paths, not afterward. In addition, the research shows that scientists have to dig beyond bone and cartilage to unravel vertebrate relationships, according to Michael Caldwell, Ph.D., an associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and of biological sciences at the University of Alberta.

"One of the classic characters in the scientific literature for the past 100 years that has been argued to link all vertebrates, to the exclusion of lampreys and hagfishes, is bone, pure and simple," Caldwell said. "It is the lack of bone in these animals and the supposed uniqueness of their cartilage, that has for so long plagued scientists in their attempts to place them in the evolutionary scheme. An entire taxonomy was created for animals that basically have a head at one end and cartilage to hold it together, but no bone. But this work says the common feature of vertebrates is not the presence or absence of bone, but the presence of a shared gene system that produces cartilage. This conclusion is illuminating and extremely important."

John Pastor | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

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...

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

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>