The new gene, called hydra, exists in only a small number of species of Drosophila fruit flies, which suggests it was created about 13 million years ago, when these melanogaster subgroup species diverged from a common ancestor.
And early evidence indicates that the new gene is functional (as opposed to being nonfunctional "junk" DNA) and is likely to express a protein involved in late stages of sperm cell development (spermatogenesis). This finding is consistent with work of other scientists who are discovering that many of the most recently formed functional genes in any species also are expressed in male testes and appear related to spermatogenesis.
"This is a de novo -- 'out of nowhere' -- gene," said Hsiao-Pei Yang, a senior research associate in Cornell's Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics and senior author of a paper published in the July 6 issue of the online journal PLoS Genetics (Public Library of Science Genetics). "People used to think that new genes were always formed from tinkering with other genes, but with this gene we can find no homologues [genes with a similar structure]. You cannot find any related genes in the fly genome or any species' genome, and that is what is unique."
Yang conducted part of this research while at the National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan and part of the work in collaboration with Cornell's Daniel Barbash, assistant professor of molecular biology and genetics.
The researchers do not yet know how the hydra gene was created, but they speculate that the gene may have developed from a piece of DNA junk called a transposable element (also known as a "jumping gene"), which may have been inserted into the genome by a virus. These transposons are known to copy and insert themselves into DNA sequences. For example, one theory is that when a transposon sits next to a gene and then jumps to a new location, it carries part of the gene sequence it was next to and inserts it in the new location. Often, transposable elements appear to have no function or may be harmful and are eliminated by natural selection, but researchers are beginning to think transposons may be a source for creating new functional genes as well.
The hydra gene is named after the Greek mythological beast that had a hound's body and nine snake heads, because it has nine duplicated first exons (sections of the gene that contain protein-coding information). Each of these exons may serve as alternative starting positions for the gene to become activated. The researchers found that most of these exons had a sequence for a transposable element sitting right next to it. Duplicated sequences generated by transposons may be part of the mechanism for creating new genes, as the duplications provide more chances for a gene to evolve.
The work was funded by the National Sciences Council in Taiwan.
Press Relations Office | EurekAlert!
How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH
A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology