Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gene Evolution Process Discovered

Date:
June 26, 2009
Source:
University of Leeds
Summary:
One of the mechanisms governing how our physical features and behavioral traits have evolved over centuries has been discovered.

One of the mechanisms governing how our physical features and behavioural traits have evolved over centuries has been discovered.
Credit: iStockphoto/Izabela Habur

One of the mechanisms governing how our physical features and behavioural traits have evolved over centuries has been discovered by researchers at the University of Leeds.

Darwin proposed that such traits are passed from a parent to their offspring, with natural selection favouring those that give the greatest advantage for survival, but did not have a scientific explanation for this process.

In new research the Leeds team reports that a protein known as REST plays a central role in switching specific genes on and off, thereby determining how specific traits develop in offspring.

The study shows that REST controls the process by which proteins are made, following the instructions encoded in genes. It also reveals that while REST regulates a core set of genes in all vertebrates, it has also evolved to work with a greater number of genes specific to mammals, in particular in the brain – potentially playing a leading role in the evolution of our intelligence.

Says lead researcher Dr Ian Wood of the University's Faculty of Biological Sciences: "This is the first study of the human genome to look at REST in such detail and compare the specific genes it regulates in different species. We've found that it works by binding to specific genetic sequences and repressing or enhancing the expression of genes associated with these sequences.

"Scientists have believed for many years that differences in the way genes are expressed into functional proteins is what differentiates one species from another and drives evolutionary change – but no-one has been able to prove it until now."

The Leeds team, in collaboration with scientists in Singapore, examined the repertoire of genes that REST regulates, in particular those which are expressed in the central nervous system. The team compared 16 whole genome sequences in fish, primates and humans to see where and how REST binds to them. Until now, the nature and extent of such variation has been unknown but the present study now completes some significant gaps in this knowledge.

Dr Wood says: "We were curious to look at REST and see what its functions are because it's present in all vertebrates and it is also thought it may have a role to play in certain brain functions, such as levels of intelligence. It was a massive undertaking just to collate all the data required and put it into the right order before we could start any kind of analysis. Our research has not only completed some significant gaps in this knowledge, but has also explained some of the detail behind the process of natural selection, which Darwin correctly identified, but couldn't explain."

 


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Johnson et al. Evolution of the Vertebrate Gene Regulatory Network Controlled by the Transcriptional Repressor REST. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2009; 26 (7): 1491 DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msp058

Cite This Page:

University of Leeds. "Gene Evolution Process Discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090615112217.htm>.
University of Leeds. (2009, June 26). Gene Evolution Process Discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090615112217.htm
University of Leeds. "Gene Evolution Process Discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090615112217.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) — A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) — A couple found love letters from World War I in their attic. They were able to deliver them to relatives of the writer of those letters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
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

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