Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fugitive genes

18.01.2006


In the world of genetic engineering one often talks about ‘transgenic organisms’. These are organisms that have been modified by the insertion of an alien gene into their genome. Now it turns out that there are naturally occurring transgenic plants. One such instance was found by Dr Lena Ghatnekar from the research team for evolutionary genetics at Lund University in Sweden. Her findings have just been published in the prestigious Proceedings of the Royal Society in London.



Sheep’s fescue (Festuca ovina) is a common grass that the research team at Lund University in Sweden has studied for a long time. One of its genes codes for an enzyme called PGIC. Lena Ghatnekar discovered that the enzyme did not look the same in all sheep’s fescue plants. It turned out that certain plants had extra genes for the production of PGIC and that these genes existed at a different site in the genome than the normal PGIC genes. At first the scientists believed that it was a matter of copied genes – gene duplications – but it soon proved to be a question of fugitive genes. Lena Ghatnekar explains:

”There are always minor differences from one plant to another when it comes to complex proteins like the enzyme PGIC. Maybe a difference of up to a few percent. But in this case the difference was six percent, and that is too much for an ordinary gene duplication.”


The alien has now been identified. The gene that produces the deviant PGIC comes from another grass, namely a meadow grass (Poa). This is surprising, since the fescues and the meadow grasses are not particularly closely related.

”We don’t know how the alien gene got into sheep’s fescue. When we have located precisely where in the genome the gene is situated, it will be possible for us to make a guess. But apparently the introgression led to a variant with high fitness, making the alien gene spread to later generations. Today, there are populations of sheep’s fescue where ten per cent of the plants carry the extra gene” says the head of the research team, Professor Bengt O. Bengtsson, adding:

”This is a truly unique event. Poa and Festuca are so remote from each other that a plant breeder would never dream of trying to cross them. Perhaps the gene was inserted into Festuca via a virus that can infect both grass species. In that case it is a sort of spontaneous genetic transformation; today’s genetic engineers make use of viruses to transfer genes. Another possibility is that something very special happened during fertilization. To be sure, grasses have a ‘defence system’ that normally prevents foreign pollen from growing on their pistils, but maybe in some way a fragment of a Poa pollen hitched a ride with a regular Festuca pollen.”

Göran Frankel | alfa
Further information:
http://www.lu.se
http://www.vr.se

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Switch-in-a-cell electrifies life
18.12.2018 | Rice University

nachricht Plant biologists identify mechanism behind transition from insect to wind pollination
18.12.2018 | University of Toronto

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Data storage using individual molecules

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists found a correlation between the structure and magnetic properties of ceramics

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Unique insights into an exotic matter state

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Physicists studied the influence of magnetic field on thin film structures

18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>