Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Junk DNA' Can Explain Origin And Complexity Of Vertebrates, Study Suggests

Date:
February 13, 2008
Source:
University of Bristol
Summary:
'Junk DNA' could hold the secret of the evolutionary origin of complex animals, according to new research. Vertebrates - animals such as humans that possess a backbone - are the most anatomically and genetically complex of all organisms, but explaining how they achieved this complexity has vexed scientists since the conception of evolutionary theory. Now researchers have traced the beginnings of complex life, i.e. vertebrates, to microRNA.

The Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus).
Credit: Photo by courtesy of J. Ellen Marsden, University of Vermont

Dartmouth College researchers and colleagues from the University of Bristol in the U.K. have traced the beginnings of complex life, i.e. vertebrates, to microRNA, sometimes referred to as 'junk DNA.' The researchers argue that the evolution of microRNAs, which regulate gene expression, are behind the origin of early vertebrates.

Vertebrates - animals such as humans that possess a backbone - are the most anatomically and genetically complex of all organisms, but explaining how they achieved this complexity has vexed scientists since the conception of evolutionary theory.

The team studied the genomics of primitive living fishes, such as sharks and lampreys, and their spineless relatives, like the sea squirt. By reconstructing the acquisition history of microRNAs shared between human and mice, the researchers determined that the highest rate of microRNA innovation in the vertebrate lineage occurred before the divergence between the living jawless fishes like the lamprey and the jawed fishes like the shark, but after the divergence of vertebrates from their invertebrate chordate relatives, such as the sea squirt.

Alysha Heimberg of Dartmouth College and her colleagues showed that microRNAs, a class of tiny molecules only recently discovered residing within what has usually been considered 'junk DNA', are hugely diverse in even the most lowly of vertebrates, but relatively few are found in the genomes of our invertebrate relatives.

She explained: "There was an explosive increase in the number of new microRNAs added to the genome of vertebrates and this is unparalleled in evolutionary history."

Co-author, Dr Philip Donoghue of Bristol University's Department of Earth Sciences continued: "Most of these new genes are required for the growth of organs that are unique to vertebrates, such as the liver, pancreas and brain. Therefore, the origin of vertebrates and the origin of these genes is no coincidence."

Dr Kevin Peterson of Dartmouth College said: "This study not only points the way to understanding the evolutionary origin of our own lineage, but it also helps us to understand how our own genome was assembled in deep time."

Journal reference: MicroRNAs and the advent of vertebrate morphological complexity by Alysha M. Heimberg, Lorenzo F. Sempere, Vanessa N. Moy, Philip C. J. Donoghue and Kevin J. Peterson will be published online on February 11-15 in PNAS.

This work was funded by the National Science Foundation, and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University of Bristol. "'Junk DNA' Can Explain Origin And Complexity Of Vertebrates, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080211172609.htm>.
University of Bristol. (2008, February 13). 'Junk DNA' Can Explain Origin And Complexity Of Vertebrates, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080211172609.htm
University of Bristol. "'Junk DNA' Can Explain Origin And Complexity Of Vertebrates, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080211172609.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) Parisians and local historians are fighting to save one of the French capital's iconic buildings, the La Samaritaine department store. Duration: 01:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Newsy (Apr. 12, 2014) Archeologists have found many fossils in the La Brea Tar Pits, including those of saber-tooth tigers and mammoths. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Daddy Longlegs Once Had 4 Eyes

Daddy Longlegs Once Had 4 Eyes

Newsy (Apr. 11, 2014) A new fossil has revealed daddy longlegs one had an extra pair of eyes. Modern species retain the gene for the extra pair but never develop them. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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