Using a combination of techniques, including phylogenetics, molecular biology, and video microscopy, the scientists show that a novel essential gene in fruit flies, born via the process of gene duplication, is only 15 million years old and yet has acquired, in a stepwise fashion, a new job so important that the flies can't live without it. The study is published in the June 6 edition of Science.
This is imagery of cells dividing, recorded from video microscopy. The image on the left depicts normal cell division in a fruit fly cell. The cell on the right has had the Umbrea gene removed, and has failed to divide normally, resulting in cell death.
Credit: Photos courtesy Barbara Mellone
"The majority of these genes are not going to acquire essential functions" of genes that, like the one they studied, have been duplicated, says Barbara Mellone, assistant professor of molecular and cell biology in UConn's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "But the interaction network is completely rewired for this gene."
Mellone and her colleagues at the University of Washington, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and the University of Munich traced the evolutionary steps by which a gene from the well-known fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, known as Umbrea, acquired its essential role. The gene is vital to chromosome segregation, the process of splitting genetic material when cells divide to generate more cells, tissues, and organisms.
To understand this paradox, the researchers used gene sequencing to understand the gene's history and captured video of cells with Umbrea removed dividing under a microscope in Mellone's laboratory. Their methods showed that after its birth, Umbrea was lost in some of the species, but in one species, Drosophila melanogaster, cells without it failed to segregate chromosomes correctly, confirming its critical role.
But their results also showed that several stepwise changes led to Umbrea's current-day time in the limelight: it lost its previous, nonessential function; the network of proteins it interacts with was completely rewired, and it acquired new, "tail" domains on the ends of its sequence that allowed it to relocate to the centromere, a structure present on all chromosomes in all species, necessary for genome segregation during cell division.
"This gene emerged and wasn't going either way, toward or away from essential function," says Mellone. "Then something happened elsewhere to help make it essential."
The researchers argue that although most duplicated genes either become non-functional or are simply lost, keeping some of them around might benefit cells in the long run.
"Centromere proteins experience rapid evolution in many organisms, including humans, in a constant 'arms race' that exists to maintain the equal segregation of genetic traits," says Mellone.
So if the genes involved in genome partitioning are evolving so fast, then perhaps it's a good idea to keep other, nonfunctional genes around – those that can acquire new essential functions when necessary.
The scientists suggest that this could change the way scientists think about other biological processes that may require recurrent genetic innovation to adapt to new challenges.
Christine Buckley | EurekAlert!
Closing the carbon loop
08.12.2016 | University of Pittsburgh
Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine
08.12.2016 | University of Gothenburg
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences