Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Invasion of genomic parasites triggered modern mammalian pregnancy, study finds

Date:
September 26, 2011
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Genetic parasites invaded the mammalian genome more than 100 million years ago and dramatically changed the way mammals reproduce -- transforming the uterus in the ancestors of humans and other mammals from the production of eggs to a nurturing home for developing young, a new study has found.

Pregnant highland cow. Genetic parasites invaded the mammalian genome more than 100 million years ago and dramatically changed the way mammals reproduce -- transforming the uterus in the ancestors of humans and other mammals from the production of eggs to a nurturing home for developing young, a new Yale University study has found.
Credit: © Ruud Morijn / Fotolia

Genetic parasites invaded the mammalian genome more than 100 million years ago and dramatically changed the way mammals reproduce -- transforming the uterus in the ancestors of humans and other mammals from the production of eggs to a nurturing home for developing young, a new Yale University study has found.

Related Articles


The findings published online Sept. 25 in the journal Nature Genetics describe in unprecedented detail the molecular changes that allowed mammals to carry their developing young within the safety of the womb rather than laying them in nests or carrying them around in pouches.

"In the last two decades there have been dramatic changes in our understanding of how evolution works," said Gunter Wagner, the Alison Richard Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) and senior author of the paper. "We used to believe that changes only took place through small mutations in our DNA that accumulated over time. But in this case we found a huge cut-and-paste operation that altered wide areas of the genome to create large-scale morphological change."

The Yale team studying the evolutionary history of pregnancy looked at cells found in the uterus associated with placental development. They compared the genetic make-up of these cells in opossums -- marsupials that give birth two weeks after conception -- to armadillos and humans, distantly related mammals with highly developed placentas that nurture developing fetuses for nine months.

They found more than 1500 genes that were expressed in the uterus solely in the placental mammals. Intriguingly, note the researchers, the expression of these genes in the uterus is coordinated by transposons -- essentially selfish pieces of genetic material that replicate within the host genome and used to be called junk DNA.

"Transposons grow like parasites that have invaded the body, multiplying and taking up space in the genome," said Vincent J. Lynch, research scientist in EEB and lead author of the paper.

But they also activate or repress genes related to pregnancy, he said.

"These transposons are not genes that underwent small changes over long periods of time and eventually grew into their new role during pregnancy," Lynch said. "They are more like prefabricated regulatory units that install themselves into a host genome, which then recycles them to carry out entirely new functions like facilitating maternal-fetal communication" Lynch said.

Robert LeClerc and Gemma May from Yale also contributed to the research.

The work was funded by the John Templeton Foundation.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Vincent J Lynch, Robert D Leclerc, Gemma May, Gόnter P Wagner. Transposon-mediated rewiring of gene regulatory networks contributed to the evolution of pregnancy in mammals. Nature Genetics, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/ng.917

Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Invasion of genomic parasites triggered modern mammalian pregnancy, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110925185434.htm>.
Yale University. (2011, September 26). Invasion of genomic parasites triggered modern mammalian pregnancy, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110925185434.htm
Yale University. "Invasion of genomic parasites triggered modern mammalian pregnancy, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110925185434.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) — The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its iconic elephant acts. The circus&apos; parent company, Feld Entertainment, told the AP exclusively that the acts will be phased out by 2018 over growing public concern about the animals. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) — Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Buzz60 (Mar. 4, 2015) — The Australian Museum has taken in its fourth-ever goblin shark, a rare fish with an electricity-sensing snout and &apos;alien-like&apos; jaw. Mike Janela (@mikejanela) takes a look. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Hormone Could Protect Against Diabetes And Weight Gain

New Hormone Could Protect Against Diabetes And Weight Gain

Newsy (Mar. 4, 2015) — A newly discovered hormone mimics the effects of exercise, protecting against diabetes and weight gain. 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:

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