Researchers at the University of Rochester have produced compelling evidence of how the hand of natural selection caused one species of fruit fly to split into two more than 2 million years ago. The study, appearing in todays issue of Nature, answers one of evolutionary biologists most basic questions--how do species divide--by looking at the very DNA responsible for the division. Understanding why certain genes evolve the way they do during speciation can shed light on some of the least understood aspects of evolution.
"The study of speciation has a reputation for wild speculation because every time we find a curious genetic element, we suspect it of causing speciation," says Daven Presgraves, lead author on the study and postdoctoral fellow at the University. "We know embarrassingly little about a core process in evolutionary biology, but now weve nailed down the exact sequence of a gene that we know was involved in keeping two species separated. We can see that it was natural selection that made the gene the way it is."
The study breaks ground in two ways: First, its the first time that a gene known to be involved in speciation has had its DNA fully revealed.
Jonathan Sherwood | EurekAlert!
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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.
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