Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Which came first, the chicken genome or the egg genome?

Researchers have answered a similarly vexing (and far more relevant) genomic question: Which of the thousands of long stretches of repeated DNA in the human genome came first? And which are the duplicates?

The answers, published online by Nature Genetics on October 7, 2007, provide the first evolutionary history of the duplications in the human genome that are partly responsible for both disease and recent genetic innovations. This work marks a significant step toward a better understanding of what genomic changes paved the way for modern humans, when these duplications occurred and what the associated costs are – in terms of susceptibility to disease-causing genetic mutations.

Genomes have a remarkable ability to copy a long stretch of DNA from one chromosome and insert it into another region of the genome. The resulting chunks of repeated DNA – called “segmental duplications” – hold many evolutionary secrets and uncovering them is a difficult biological and computational challenge with implications for both medicine and our understanding of evolution.

The new evolutionary history, published in Nature Genetics, is from an interdisciplinary team led by biologist Evan Eichler from the University of Washington School of Medicine and computer scientists Pavel Pevzner from University of California, San Diego.

In the past, the highly complex patterns of DNA duplication – including duplications within duplications – have prevented the construction of an evolutionary history of these long DNA duplications.

To crack the duplication code and determine which of the DNA segments are originals (ancestral duplications) and which are copies (derivative duplications), the researchers looked to both algorithmic biology and comparative genomics.

“Identifying the original duplications is a prerequisite to understanding what makes the human genome unstable,” said Pavel Pevzner a UCSD computer science professor who modified an algorithmic genome assembly technique in order to deconstruct the mosaics of repeated stretches of DNA and identify the original sequences. “Maybe there is something special about the originals, some clue or insight into what causes this colonization of the human genome,” said Pevzner.

“This is the first time that we have a global view of the evolutionary origin of some of the most complicated regions of the human genome,” said paper author Evan Eichler, a professor from the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The researchers tracked down the ancestral origin of more than two thirds of these long DNA duplications. In the Nature Genetics paper they highlight two big picture findings.

First, the researchers suggest that specific regions of the human genome experienced elevated rates of duplication activity at different times in our recent genomic history. This contrasts with most models of genomic duplication which suggest a continuous model for recent duplications.

Second, the researchers show that a large fraction of the recent duplication architecture centers around a rather small subset of “core duplicons” – short segments of DNA that come together to form segmental duplications. These cores are focal points of human gene/transcript innovations.

“We found that not all of the duplications in the human genome are created equal. Some of them – the core duplicons – appear to be responsible for recent genetic innovations the in human genome,” explained Pevzner, who is the director of the UCSD Center for Algorithmic and Systems Biology, located at the UCSD division of Calit2.

The authors uncovered 14 such core duplicons.
“We note that in 4 of the 14 cases, there is compelling evidence that genes embedded within the cores are associated with novel human gene innovations. In two cases the core duplicon has been part of novel fusion genes whose functions appear to be radically different from their antecedents,” the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

“The results suggest that the high rate of disease caused by these duplications in the normal population – estimated at 1/500 and 1/1000 events per birth – may be offset by the emergence of newly minted human/great-ape specific genes embedded within the duplications. The next challenge will be determining the function of these novel genes," said Eichler.

To reach these insights, the researchers worked to systematically pinpoint the ancestral origin of each human segmental duplication and organized duplication blocks based on their shared evolutionary history.

Pevzner and his associate Haixu Tang (now professor at University of Indiana) applied their expertise in assembling genomes from millions of small fragments – a problem that is not unlike the “mosaic decomposition” problem in analyzing duplications that the team faced.

Over the years, Pevzner has applied the 250-year old algorithmic idea first proposed by 18th century mathematician Leonhard Euler (of the fame of pi) to a variety of problems and demonstrated that it works equally well for a set of seemingly unrelated biological problems including DNA fragment assembly, reconstructing snake venoms, and now dissecting the mosaic structure of segmental duplications.

In the future, the researchers plan to continue their exploration of evolution.

“We want to figure out how the human genome evolved. In the future, we will combine what we know about the evolution within genomes with comparative genomics in order to extend our view of evolution,” said Pevzner.

Daniel Kane | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: DNA Evolution Genetics Nature Original Pevzner duplicon genomic human genome innovations

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders
24.10.2016 | Baylor College of Medicine

nachricht New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground
24.10.2016 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

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...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

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

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

24.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>