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.

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 August 27, 2014 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 August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) — It took Houston firefighters more than an hour to free a puppy who got its head stuck in a tire. (Aug. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) — A study published in the journal "Neurology" interviewed more than 19,000 people and found 15 percent suffer from being "sleep drunk." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Great White Shark Spotted Off Massachusetts Coast

Great White Shark Spotted Off Massachusetts Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) — A great white shark is spotted off the shore at Duxbury beach in Massachusetts forcing beach goers out of the water. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elk Wanders Into German Office Building

Raw: Elk Wanders Into German Office Building

AP (Aug. 25, 2014) — A young bull elk wandered inside the office building of a company in Dresden, Germany on Monday. The elk became trapped between a wall and glass windows while rescue workers tried to rescue him safely. (Aug. 25) Video provided by AP
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