Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Surprising new function for small RNAs in evolution

Date:
April 19, 2013
Source:
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Summary:
Scientists have discovered a completely new mechanism by which evolution can change the appearance of an organism. The researchers found that the number of hairs on flies’ legs varies according to the level of activity of a so-called microRNA. The results shed a completely new light on the molecular mechanisms of evolution.

Electron micrograph of a Drosophila leg showing the bald patch called 'naked valley' on the right.
Credit: Vetmeduni Vienna/McGregor

An international research team in including Christian Schlötterer and Alistair McGregor of the Vetmeduni Vienna has discovered a completely new mechanism by which evolution can change the appearance of an organism. The researchers found that the number of hairs on flies' legs varies according to the level of activity of a so-called microRNA.

Related Articles


The results, published in the journal Current Biology, shed a completely new light on the molecular mechanisms of evolution.

It has long been known that certain proteins, known as transcription factors, directly control the way in which information is read from DNA. As a result, it is widely believed that changes in genes encoding such proteins underlie the mechanisms responsible for evolutionary adaptation. The idea that small RNA molecules, so-called microRNAs, may play an important part in evolutionary changes to animals' appearance is completely new. An international team of researchers, including Christian Schlötterer and Alistair McGregor from the Institute of Population Genetics of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna), has now published a study that describes such an evolutionary mechanism.

Small and large bald patches

Insect bodies are generally covered with a large number of microscopic hairs. This is the case for the legs of many closely related species of the fruit fly genus Drosophila, although the animals have a bald patch on the second pair of legs, intriguingly known as the naked valley. Previous work had shown that the size of this patch is regulated by the gene ultrabithorax (Ubx) and that it differs between species. However, the work at the Vetmeduni Vienna showed that similar differences are shown by individuals from different populations of Drosophila melanogaster.

Their search for the genetic basis of the variation led the researchers to a segment of fruit fly DNA that contained four genes. Three of these genes were known to encode proteins with no role in the development of the hairs. The fourth gene, known as miR-92a, encodes a microRNA. Previous experiments had shown that an increase in activity of the miR-92a gene was associated with a loss of hairs from the animals' wings. By overexpressing the gene in the legs of the fruit flies, the scientists were able to cause hair loss on the animals' legs.

Schlötterer is naturally excited by the findings. "This is the first experiment to show that natural variation in the expression of a microRNA can lead to a change in the appearance of an organism. MicroRNAs can fine-tune the level at which genes are expressed, so evolutionary changes in the production of microRNA would be an elegant way to cause morphological changes."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Saad Arif, Sophie Murat, Isabel Almudi, Maria D.S. Nunes, Diane Bortolamiol-Becet, Naomi S. McGregor, James M.S. Currie, Harri Hughes, Matthew Ronshaugen, Élio Sucena, Eric C. Lai, Christian Schlötterer, Alistair P. McGregor. Evolution of mir-92a Underlies Natural Morphological Variation in Drosophila melanogaster. Current Biology, 2013; 23 (6): 523 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.02.018

Cite This Page:

Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "Surprising new function for small RNAs in evolution." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130419075909.htm>.
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. (2013, April 19). Surprising new function for small RNAs in evolution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130419075909.htm
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "Surprising new function for small RNAs in evolution." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130419075909.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) — Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fossil Treasures at Risk in Morocco Desert Town

Fossil Treasures at Risk in Morocco Desert Town

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) — Hundreds of archeological jewels in and around the town of 30,000 people prompt geologists and archeologists to call the Erfoud area "the largest open air fossil museum in the world". Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — A 45,000-year-old thighbone is showing when humans and neanderthals may have first interbred and revealing details about our origins. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — You've probably seen some weird-looking dinosaurs, but have you ever seen one this weird? It's worth a look. 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