Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Delegating dirty work is key to evolution: Working cells allow organisms to evolve

Date:
May 22, 2014
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
We have hundreds of types of cells in our bodies -- everything from red blood cells to hair follicles to neurons. But why can't most of them create offspring for us? New research suggests that separating germ cells -- sperm and eggs -- from somatic cells -- all other cells -- preserves the genetic building blocks while allowing organisms to flourish in a somewhat hazardous environment.

MSU research shows that having special cells doing the dirty work help organisms evolve.
Credit: Image courtesy of Michigan State University

We have hundreds of types of cells in our bodies -- everything from red blood cells to hair follicles to neurons. But why can't most of them create offspring for us?

New research at Michigan State University suggests that separating germ cells -- sperm and eggs -from somatic cells -- all other cells -- preserves the genetic building blocks while allowing organisms to flourish in a somewhat hazardous environment.

The results, which appear in the current issue of PLOS Biology, show that having somatic cells do the organism's dirty work helps explain this beneficial evolution.

"The idea we're exploring is that multicellular organisms set aside germ cells to protect their genetic material, letting other cells -- the soma -- do the dirty work that damages DNA, their genetic building blocks," said Heather Goldsby, who conducted the research at MSU's BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.

While this study was focused on cells in multicellular organisms, some of the same themes apply to other natural systems. Beehives provide one potential example. The queen would be the germ cell, carrying out the sole task of maintaining the hive's population; and the worker bees would be the somatic cells, fulfilling all of the other necessary duties needed to ensure the hive's health.

Rather than use bees or living organisms for their experiments, the researchers used Avida, a software environment developed at MSU in which self-replicating computer programs compete and evolve.

"The digital organisms in Avida evolve complex traits and behaviors in a natural and open-ended fashion," said Charles Ofria, director of the MSU Digital Evolution laboratory. "Avida is a powerful platform for exploring big evolutionary questions, much faster and more transparently than could ever be done with natural organisms."

This splitting of cellular duties is a hallmark of major transitions in evolution. The team's virtual organisms started with a set of identical cells that initially took no risks, and consequently, reaped no rewards. The organisms slowly evolved to perform some of the highly lucrative dirty work, risking their genomes to do so.

They only truly thrived, however, once they evolved somatic cells that bore the brunt of the dirty work, along side germ cells that transmitted a "clean" genome to the next generation.

Interestingly, the somatic cells performed even more complex functions once they were freed from the burdens of reproduction, which led to higher fitness for the organism as a whole, Ofria added.

As a consequence of doing more dirty work, the soma gets bombarded with mutations. This explains in part why organisms age.

"One theory as to why we age is that our cells become mutated or damaged due to stress," said Goldsby, now at the University of Washington. "This played out during our experiments. The older organisms accumulated harmful mutations and began to perform tasks slower, or to age, while the younger ones outperformed them."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Heather J. Goldsby, David B. Knoester, Charles Ofria, Benjamin Kerr. The Evolutionary Origin of Somatic Cells under the Dirty Work Hypothesis. PLoS Biology, 2014; 12 (5): e1001858 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001858

Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Delegating dirty work is key to evolution: Working cells allow organisms to evolve." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140522141453.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2014, May 22). Delegating dirty work is key to evolution: Working cells allow organisms to evolve. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140522141453.htm
Michigan State University. "Delegating dirty work is key to evolution: Working cells allow organisms to evolve." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140522141453.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. 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