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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
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An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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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.