Researcher studies gene families to explore diversity and evolution
Theoretical biologist Stephen Proulx studies gene families to explore how genomes become diverse and evolve.
The Iowa State University assistant professor uses mathematical tools and computer models to determine how environmental and evolutionary factors -- like seasonal change, migration and sexual preference -- structure a genome.
One path to diversity in a genome involves the proliferation of genes into multi-gene families.
"The growth of a gene family can occur through rare errors in DNA replication," Proulx said. "Sometimes in error, a single gene is duplicated on a chromosome, and the duplicated copy can emerge as a new functional gene. Although that gene may have a new function, it's not fundamentally different from the original gene."
Proulx wants to be able to explain that process. "We also want to know if changing the size of gene families is a way by which an organism becomes more complex," he said.
In a recent paper published in the journal Evolution, Proulx and colleague Patrick Phillips, professor, University of Oregon, Eugene, show that the process of gene family expansion can begin even before a gene is duplicated. The first step in the process involves specialization of different variants of a gene that can then take on different functions once the gene is duplicated by chance.
The article was recently featured as a "Hidden Jewel" on the Faculty of 1000 Web site, a journal review site that posts expert opinions on current research papers. Proulx thinks it has generated considerable interest in the biological community because it shows how the process of adaptation can play a role in generating organismal complexity.
Proulx's model calculates the exact conditions under which evolutionary pressures cause genes to diverge.
"One of the things I'm trying to do is provide an ecological and environmental context for genome evolution," he said. "And what I continue to see is that these ecological factors can play a really large role."
Stephen Proulx | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
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,...
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...
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...
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...
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...