Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Leaky Genes Put Evolution on the Fast Track, Pitt and UW-Madison Researchers Find

16.06.2011
The team traced the development of a unique feature in a species of fruit fly that began with low-level gene activity and became a distinct feature in a mere four mutations as an existing gene took on a new function, according to a report in PNAS

Small genetic mutations that add up over time could create an evolutionary express lane that leads to the rapid development of new traits, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Wisconsin at Madison have found.

The team reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that slight changes in segments of DNA known as transcriptional enhancers—which determine the when, where, and how much in gene production—can activate dormant genetic imperfections. These alterations awaken specific genes to low-level activity, or “leakiness,” in developing tissue different from the genes’ typical location. Just a few subsequent mutations build on that stirring to result in a new function for an old gene—and possibly a novel trait.

Coauthor Mark Rebeiz [Ra-BAYS], a professor of biological sciences in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences, and his colleagues traced how a certain unwitting gene found itself in the unique optical neurons of a species of fruit fly. They found that tiny alterations in the transcriptional enhancers of the species’ ancestor caused the gene to take root in these neurons for the first time. A couple of mutations later and the gene became a permanent fixture in the fly’s brain cells. Rebeiz worked with coauthors Sean Carroll, professor of molecular biology and genetics at the UW-Madison; Nick Jikomes, an undergraduate researcher in Carroll’s laboratory; and Victoria Kassner, a research associate in Carroll’s lab.

The Pitt-UW Madison work expands on research during the past 30 years demonstrating that new genes made from scratch are rare in animals, Rebeiz said. Instead, the diversity of living things is thought to stem from existing genes showing up in new locations. In a famous example of the lack of originality in animal genes, researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland reported in Science in 1995 that a gene known as PAX6, a “master control” gene for the formation of eyes and other features in flies, mice, and humans, could cause the growth of additional eyes on the legs and antennae of fruit flies.

With their report in PNAS, Rebeiz and his coauthors offer the first explanation of what makes these genes go astray in the first place—and they identified the deviant DNA as the culprit.

The researchers found that the gene Neprilysin-1 present in the optical neurons of the fruit fly species Drosophilia santomea emerged in that location about 400,000 years ago—a blip in evolutionary terms—in the last common ancestor the fly shared with its relative D. yakuba. The mutation began with a transcriptional enhancer for the gene, which caused Neprilysin-1 to show up in different neurons than usual.

From there, Rebeiz said, the development of D. santomea’s distinguishing neurons plays out with the clarity of a film as four mutations in subsequent generations intensify the errant enhancer’s impact until Neprilysin-1’s presence in optical neurons become an exclusive feature of D. santomea. On the other hand, ensuing genetic alterations in D. yakuba actually extinguished this new expression and restored that fly’s Neprilysin-1 to its original location.

“It has been long appreciated that nature doesn’t make anything from scratch, but the mystery has remained of how genes that have been performing the same job for hundreds of millions of years are suddenly expressed in new places,” Rebeiz said. “Our work shows that even slight mutations in a transcriptional enhancer can cause leaky gene activity, which can initiate a short route to the development of new traits.”

Morgan Kelly | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.news.pitt.edu/news/Rebeiz-leaky-genes
http://www.pitt.edu

Further reports about: DNA Evolution Neprilysin-1 PNAS Pitt vaccine brain cell fruit fly genes genetic mutation specific gene

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves
17.08.2018 | Leibniz Universität Hannover

nachricht First transcription atlas of all wheat genes expands prospects for research and cultivation
17.08.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Quantum material is promising 'ion conductor' for research, new technologies

17.08.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>