Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Brain gene shows dramatic difference from chimp to human

One of the fastest-evolving pieces of DNA in the human genome is a gene linked to brain development, according to findings by an international team of researchers published in the Aug. 17 issue of the journal Nature.

In a computer-based search for pieces of DNA that have undergone the most change since the ancestors of humans and chimps diverged, "Human Accelerated Region 1" or HAR1, was a clear standout, said lead author Katie Pollard, assistant professor at the UC Davis Genome Center and the Department of Statistics.

"It's evolving incredibly rapidly," Pollard said. "It's really an extreme case."

As a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of David Haussler at UC Santa Cruz, Pollard first scanned the chimpanzee genome for stretches of DNA that were highly similar between chimpanzees, mice and rats. Then she compared those regions between chimpanzees and humans, looking for the DNA that, presumably, makes a big difference between other animals and ourselves.

HAR1 has only two changes in its 118 letters of DNA code between chimpanzees and chickens. But in the roughly five million years since we shared an ancestor with the chimpanzees, 18 of the 118 letters that make up HAR1 in the human genome have changed.

Experiments led by Sofie Salama at UC Santa Cruz showed that HAR1 is part of two overlapping genes, named HAR1F and HAR1R. Evidence suggests that neither gene produces a protein, but the RNA produced by the HAR1 sequence probably has its own function. Most of the other genes identified by the study also fall outside protein-coding regions, Pollard said.

Structurally, the HAR1 RNA appears to form a stable structure made up of a series of helices. The shapes of human and chimpanzee HAR1 RNA molecules are significantly different, the researchers found.

RNA is usually thought of as an intermediate step in translating DNA into protein. But scientists have begun to realize that some pieces of RNA can have their own direct effects, especially in controlling other genes.

The proteins of humans and chimps are very similar to each other, but are put together in different ways, Pollard said. Differences in how, when and where genes are turned on likely give rise to many of the physical differences between humans and other primates.

Researchers at UC Santa Cruz, the University of Brussels, Belgium and University Claude Bernard in Lyon, France, showed that HAR1F is active during a critical stage in development of the cerebral cortex, a much more complicated structure in humans than in apes and monkeys. The researchers found HAR1F RNA associated with a protein called reelin in the cortex of embryos early in development. The same pattern of expression is found in both humans and rhesus monkeys, but since the human HAR1F has a unique structure, it may act in a slightly different way. Those differences may explain some of the differences between a human and chimp brain.

Andy Fell | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

nachricht 'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

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

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>