MBL researchers probe how an ancient microbe thrives and evolves without sex

A January 2004 finding by biologists at the Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution added important evidence to the radical conclusion that a group of diminutive aquatic animals called bdelloid rotifers have evolved for tens of millions of years without sexual reproduction, in apparent violation of the rule that abandonment of sexual reproduction is a biological dead end. Now, MBL scientists are beginning to understand just what’s different about these creatures’ DNA that has enabled them to succeed where other asexual species have failed.

In a paper published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), MBL scientists Irina R. Arkhipova and Matthew Meselson provide evidence that suggests bdelloid rotifers–which probably gave up sex at least 50 million years ago but have still evolved into 370 species–handle DNA transposons more efficiently than other asexual species. Transposons are small snippets of “junk DNA” that sexual reproduction compensates for, but which often go unchecked and are believed to contribute to mutation (and eventually extinction) in species that reproduce asexually.

To learn more about the bdelloid rotifers’ unique ability to evolve without sex, Arkhipova and Meselson studied portions of different bdelloid rotifer genomes and surveyed the diversity, structural organization, and patterns of evolution of DNA transposons.

The scientists found that DNA transposons in bdelloid rotifers are in a different, perhaps less damaging, location than those found in other creatures. Many bdelloid DNA transposons have the same surrounding sequences, which may indicate preferences for specific locations. Indeed, many of them appear to be located at the tip of the chromosome in an area called the telomere, different from the gene-rich portions of the genome, whereas most species tend to have DNA transposons dispersed throughout their genome.

Media Contact

Gina Hebert EurekAlert!

More Information:

http://www.mbl.edu

All latest news from the category: Life Sciences and Chemistry

Articles and reports from the Life Sciences and chemistry area deal with applied and basic research into modern biology, chemistry and human medicine.

Valuable information can be found on a range of life sciences fields including bacteriology, biochemistry, bionics, bioinformatics, biophysics, biotechnology, genetics, geobotany, human biology, marine biology, microbiology, molecular biology, cellular biology, zoology, bioinorganic chemistry, microchemistry and environmental chemistry.

Back to home

Comments (0)

Write a comment

Newest articles

Researchers shrink camera to the size of a salt grain

Micro-sized cameras have great potential to spot problems in the human body and enable sensing for super-small robots, but past approaches captured fuzzy, distorted images with limited fields of view….

World-first product will be a lifesaving traffic stopper

Game-changing technology to design traffic lights that absorb kinetic energy, stopping them from crumpling when hit by a vehicle, will prevent thousands of fatalities and injuries each year and make…

Scientists capture electron transfer image in electrocatalysis process

The involvement between electron transfer (ET) and catalytic reaction at electrocatalyst surface makes electrochemical process challenging to understand and control. How to experimentally determine ET process occurring at nanoscale is…

Partners & Sponsors