Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rodent's bizarre traits deepen mystery of genetics, evolution

18.09.2006
A shadowy rodent has potential to shed light on human genetics and the mysteries of evolution.

Purdue University research has shown that the vole, a mouselike rodent, is not only the fastest evolving mammal, but also harbors a number of puzzling genetic traits that challenge current scientific understanding.

"Nobody has posters of voles on their wall," said J. Andrew DeWoody, associate professor of genetics in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, whose study appears this month in the journal Genetica. "But when it comes down to it, voles deserve more attention."

Small rodents often confused for mice, except with shorter tails and beady eyes, voles live throughout the Northern Hemisphere and are often considered agricultural pests because they eat vegetation. Nevertheless, voles are an "evolutionary enigma" with many bizarre traits, DeWoody said. Understanding the basis for these traits could lead to better understanding of the same phenomena in human genetics and genetic disorders, and could have implications for gene therapy, he said.

... more about:
»Chromosome »DNA »DeWoody »bizarre »species

The study focuses on 60 species within the vole genus Microtus, which has evolved in the last 500,000 to 2 million years. This means voles are evolving 60-100 times faster than the average vertebrate in terms of creating different species. Within the genus (the level of taxonomic classification above species), the number of chromosomes in voles ranges from 17-64. DeWoody said that this is an unusual finding, since species within a single genus often have the same chromosome number.

Among the vole's other bizarre genetic traits:

•In one species, the X chromosome, one of the two sex-determining chromosomes (the other being the Y), contains about 20 percent of the entire genome. Sex chromosomes normally contain much less genetic information.

•In another species, females possess large portions of the Y (male) chromosome.

•In yet another species, males and females have different chromosome numbers, which is uncommon in animals.

A final "counterintuitive oddity" is that despite genetic variation, all voles look alike, said DeWoody's former graduate student and study co-author Deb Triant.

"All voles look very similar, and many species are completely indistinguishable," DeWoody said.

In one particular instance, DeWoody was unable to differentiate between two species even after close examination and analysis of their cranial structure; only genetic tests could reveal the difference.

Nevertheless, voles are perfectly adept at recognizing those of their own species.

"I have seen absolutely no evidence of mating between different species," Triant said. "We don't know how they do this, but scent and behavior probably play a role."

DeWoody said, "The vole is a great a model system that could be used to study lots of natural phenomena that could impact humans."

His research focuses on the mitochondrial genome, the set of DNA within the cellular compartment responsible for generating energy (the mitochondria). Some of Triant's additional work explores the unique ability of vole's mitochondrial DNA to insert itself within DNA in the cell nucleus. The nuclear genome, as it is known, contains the vast majority of a cell's DNA and is responsible for controlling cellular function and development.

"Deb's work in this area could potentially have some basic science impact on gene delivery mechanisms, such as those used in gene therapy," DeWoody said.

In this relatively new therapy, treatment involves the insertion of a gene into human patients' cells in order to counter some illness or disease like hemophilia. However, it is often difficult to insert the desired gene in the "correct" location, or a location where it does what it is supposed to do. A better understanding of the unusual prevalence of this activity in voles, and the manner in which it happens, could have important human implications.

DeWoody's research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. DeWoody hopes to continue his work on vole genetics at some point in the future.

Writer: Douglas M Main, 765-496-2050, dmain@purdue.edu

Sources: J. Andrew DeWoody, 765-496-6109, dewoody@purdue.edu

Deb Triant, 765.496-6868, dtriant@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu

Douglas M. Main | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu

Further reports about: Chromosome DNA DeWoody bizarre species

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Discovery of a Key Regulatory Gene in Cardiac Valve Formation
24.05.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Carcinogenic soot particles from GDI engines
24.05.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>