Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Newly created genes frequently lost, driving evolution: Mystery solved by recent research

Date:
February 17, 2014
Source:
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Summary:
It is well known that genes are passed from one generation to the next. In addition, new genes arise regularly, although the number of genes in a particular organism does not seem to increase. The paradox has been solved by recent research that shows that newly created genes are frequently lost. The spontaneous appearance and disappearance of genes enables organisms to adapt rapidly to their environment and helps drive evolution. 

The fruit fly Drosophila was the genetic model that the researchers used for their studies.
Credit: Markus Riedl/Vetmeduni Vienna

It is well known that genes are passed from one generation to the next. In addition, new genes arise regularly, although the number of genes in a particular organism does not seem to increase. The paradox has been solved by recent research at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, which shows that newly created genes are frequently lost. The spontaneous appearance and disappearance of genes enables organisms to adapt rapidly to their environment and helps drive evolution.

Related Articles


The work is published today in the journal eLife.

How do new genes arise? Current research shows that so-called "orphan genes" may appear as if by magic as a result of mutations in segments of DNA that previously had no function. Orphan genes were first discovered in the fruit fly but are found in all organisms, including man. Strikingly, up to 30 per cent of the total number of genes in an organism may be orphans and these genes may rapidly acquire functions. Scientists from the Institute of Population Genetics of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni) have now investigated the fate of orphan genes. They show for the first time that orphan genes are frequently lost and consider the factors the influence the "survival" of the young genes.

Young orphans are at greatest risk

Together with Christian Schlötterer, the Head of the Institute, and other colleagues, Nicola Palmieri investigated the genes in a European species of fruit fly (Drosophila pseudoobscura). The scientists compared the genetic sequence of five related strains of the species, looking for orphan genes and examining the life cycles of the various genes in the fly genome. They discovered that most orphan genes persist for relatively few generations. As Schlötterer explains, "Some genes last for a long time through the evolution of species: these are known as conserved genes. Orphan genes represent the exact opposite: they come and go. Interestingly the youngest orphan genes seem to disappear the fastest. Orphan genes that are 'older' are more likely to remain in the genome."

The researchers identified a number of factors that determine the length of time a young gene remains in a population. Active genes, i.e. those that produce a large amount of RNA, seem more likely to be retained than less active genes; and genes that are more active in males than in females also persist for longer.

Life on the X chromosome: short and sweet

Another important factor is the precise position where an orphan gene is located. When a new gene arises on the X chromosome (males have one X chromosome and females two) it is likely to cease functioning much faster than genes that arise on other chromosomes. Surprisingly, though, there are more orphans on the X chromosome than at other sites in the genome. It is currently unclear why this is so, despite the apparent existence of a mechanism that makes it hard for orphan genes to "survive" on the X chromosome. Life on the X chromosome may be short but it is clearly attractive.

Important tools for evolution

Schlötterer is keen to emphasize the importance of orphan genes for evolution. "Orphan genes are probably extremely important for rapid, short-term adaptations, when a species needs something new and innovative. When they are no longer needed they can be quickly removed from the genome." Recent work in another group has shown how orphan genes can arise: Palmieri and Schlötterer's work now completes the picture by showing how and when they disappear.


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. N. Palmieri, C. Kosiol, C. Schlotterer. The life cycle of Drosophila orphan genes. eLife, 2014; 3 (0): e01311 DOI: 10.7554/elife.01311

Cite This Page:

Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "Newly created genes frequently lost, driving evolution: Mystery solved by recent research." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140217085250.htm>.
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. (2014, February 17). Newly created genes frequently lost, driving evolution: Mystery solved by recent research. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140217085250.htm
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "Newly created genes frequently lost, driving evolution: Mystery solved by recent research." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140217085250.htm (accessed January 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nanoscale Sensor Could Help Wine Producers and Clinical Scientists

Nanoscale Sensor Could Help Wine Producers and Clinical Scientists

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 30, 2015) — A nanosensor that mimics the oral effects and sensations of drinking wine has been developed by Danish and Portuguese researchers. Jim Drury saw it in operation. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dog-Loving Astronaut Wins Best Photo of 2015

Dog-Loving Astronaut Wins Best Photo of 2015

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) — Retired astronaut and television host, Leland Melvin, snuck his dogs into the NASA studio so they could be in his official photo. As Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) shows us, the secret is out. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Wants to Analyze DNA from 1 Million People

U.S. Wants to Analyze DNA from 1 Million People

Reuters - US Online Video (Jan. 30, 2015) — The U.S. has proposed analyzing genetic information from more than 1 million American volunteers to learn how genetic variants affect health and disease. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rarest Cat on Planet Caught Attacking Monkeys on Camera

Rarest Cat on Planet Caught Attacking Monkeys on Camera

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) — An African Golden Cat, the rarest large cat on the planet was recently caught on camera by scientists trying to study monkeys. The cat comes out of nowhere to attack those monkeys. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) has the rest. Video provided by Buzz60
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