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.

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 September 3, 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 September 3, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Did Neanderthals Play Tic-Tac-Toe?

Did Neanderthals Play Tic-Tac-Toe?

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — Artwork found in a Gibraltar cave that was possibly done by Neanderthals suggests they may have been smarter than we all thought. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Millions Of Historical Public Domain Photos Added To Flickr

Millions Of Historical Public Domain Photos Added To Flickr

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — Historian Kalev Leetaru uploaded a large collection of historical photos, images that were previously difficult to collect. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — An international team uncovered a large ancient wine celler that likely belonged to a Cannonite ruler. 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