Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Perception' Gene Tracked Humanity's Evolution, Scientists Say

Date:
November 15, 2005
Source:
Indiana University
Summary:
A gene thought to influence perception and susceptibility to drug dependence is expressed more readily in human beings than in other primates, and this difference coincides with the evolution of our species, say scientists at Indiana University Bloomington and three other academic institutions. Their report appears in the December issue of Public Library of Science Biology.

A gene thought to influence perception and susceptibility to drug dependence is expressed more readily in human beings than in other primates, and this difference coincides with the evolution of our species, say scientists at Indiana University Bloomington and three other academic institutions. Their report appears in the December issue of Public Library of Science Biology.

Related Articles


The gene encodes prodynorphin, an opium-like protein implicated in the anticipation and experience of pain, social attachment and bonding, as well as learning and memory.

"Humans have the ability to turn on this gene more easily and more intensely than other primates," said IU Bloomington computational biologist Matthew Hahn, who did the brunt of the population genetics work for the paper. "Given its function, we believe regulation of this gene was likely important in the evolution of modern humans' mental capacity."

Prodynorphin is a precursor molecule of the neurotransmitters alpha-endorphin, dynorphin A, and dynorphin B, collectively called opioids because their action is similar to stimulatory effects caused by the drug opium.

The notion that humans are more perceptive than other primates would hardly be news. But the list of genes known to have tracked or guided humanity's separation from the other apes is a short one. Genes controlling the development of the brain almost always turn out to be identical or nearly so in chimpanzees and human beings. And as it turns out, the protein prodynorphin is identical in humans and chimps.

It's the prodynorphin gene's promoter sequence -- upstream DNA that controls how much of the protein is expressed -- where the big differences are. "Only about 1 to 1.5 percent of our DNA differs from chimpanzees," Hahn said. "We found that in a stretch of DNA about 68 base pairs in length upstream of prodynorphin, 10 percent of the sequence was different between us and chimps."

Hahn said this "evolutionary burst" is responsible for differences in gene expression rates. When induced, the human prodynorphin gene was 20 percent more active than the chimpanzee prodynorphin gene. Past research has also observed variation in expression levels within humans.

This report supports a growing consensus among evolutionary anthropologists that hominid divergence from the other great apes was fueled not by the origin of new genes, but by the quickening (or slowing) of the expression of existing genes.

Hahn and his colleagues at Duke University, University College London and Medical University of Vienna first became interested in primate prodynorphin after noticing an unusual amount of variation in the human version's promoter. The scientists decided to examine the prodynorphin gene in human beings around the world and in non-human primates to see whether such variation was commonplace and whether that variation affected gene expression.

The group found a surprisingly large amount of genetic variation among humans within the prodynorphin gene's promoter. They examined prodynorphin genes from Chinese, Papua New Guineans, (Asian) Indians, Ethiopians, Cameroonians, Austrians and Italians.

The group also sequenced and cloned prodynorphin genes from chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, rhesus macaques, pigtail macaques and guinea baboons. The researchers found that high genetic variation in the prodynorphin promoter was unique to humans. Other primates' promoters were far more homogeneous.

Exactly how prodynorphin influences human perception is unknown. Evidence for its various effects comes entirely from clinical studies of people who have mutations in the gene. Past clinical studies have also indicated a positive correlation between lower prodynorphin levels in the brain and susceptibility to cocaine dependence.

Matthew Rockman, David Goldstein and Gregory Wray (Duke University); Nicole Soranzo (University College London); and Fritz Zimprich (Medical University of Vienna) also contributed to the research. It was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Royal Society, and the Leverhulme Trust (U.K.).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Indiana University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Indiana University. "'Perception' Gene Tracked Humanity's Evolution, Scientists Say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 November 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051115171208.htm>.
Indiana University. (2005, November 15). 'Perception' Gene Tracked Humanity's Evolution, Scientists Say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051115171208.htm
Indiana University. "'Perception' Gene Tracked Humanity's Evolution, Scientists Say." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051115171208.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) — Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano. Researchers are restoring and studying self-playing pianos and the music rolls that recorded major composers performing their own work. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) — A group of scientists looked at the genetics behind the domestication of the horse and showed how human manipulation changed horses' DNA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) — A collection of rare manuscripts by composers Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet are due to go on sale at auction on December 17. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 15, 2014) — Researchers are looking to the past to gain a clearer picture of what the future holds for ice in the Arctic. A project to analyse and digitize ship logs dating back to the 1850's aims to lengthen the timeline of recorded ice data. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins