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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
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Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Getting Ahead With Double Genes
10 November 2000 7:00 pm
After trolling through sequence data for nine very different organisms, scientists have discovered that genes are copied far more frequently than previously thought. The study, published in the 10 November issue of Science, suggests that some duplicate genes play a key role in the evolution of new traits and in speciation.
Most evolutionary biologists believe that genomes grow and diversify by gene duplication. The idea is that when genes are accidentally copied twice, the "extra" copies can take on a new function, for instance by turning on at a different time in development or in a different tissue. Yet until recently, researchers didn't have much to back up this theory.
A rich source for evidence, evolutionary biologist Michael Lynch and computer scientist John Conery of the University of Oregon, Eugene, realized, is the recent flurry of genome sequencing data. The duo used a computer program to find duplicate genes in the genomes of the fruit fly, yeast, and nematode, and among all the protein-coding sequences available for the mouse, chicken, human, rice, and the plant Arabidopsis thaliana.
The two found an "astronomical rate of gene duplication," says Sally Otto, an evolutionary biologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. In fact, duplications occur as often as single-base changes within genes, which have long been considered the primary means by which genomes evolve. "Gene duplications are so frequent that we really need to take them into account as an important source of genetic variation," says Andreas Wagner, an evolutionary biologist at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and the Santa Fe Institute.
Several researchers question how Lynch came up with his pool of duplicate genes and worry about some of the resulting estimates. Manyuan Long, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, thinks that Lynch's analysis doesn't adequately take into account long-lived gene copies, many of which also exist in these genomes. Nevertheless, the report is "a very nice example of how the creative analyses of genomic databases can provide valuable but previously inaccessible information about evolution," says Loren Rieseberg, an evolutionary biologist at Indiana University, Bloomington.