Key brain gene shows evolution in humans

December 12, 2005

Duke University researchers say they've discovered the first brain regulatory gene that shows clear evidence of evolution from lower primates to humans.

They said the evolution of humans might well have depended in part on hyperactivation of the gene, called prodynorphin, or PDYN, that plays critical roles in regulating perception, behavior and memory.

They reported that, compared with lower primates, humans possess a distinctive variant in a regulatory segment of the prodynorphin gene, which is a precursor molecule for a range of regulatory proteins called "neuropeptides." This variant increases the amount of prodynorphin produced in the brain.

While the researchers do not understand the physiological implications of the activated PDYN gene in humans, they said their finding offers an important and intriguing piece of a puzzle of the mechanism by which humans evolved from lower primates. They also said the discovery of the first evolutionarily selected gene is likely only the beginning of a new pathway of exploring how the pressure of natural selection influenced evolution of other genes.

The study appears in the December issue of the Public Library of Science.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

Explore further: Fighting mosquito resistance to insecticides

Related Stories

Fighting mosquito resistance to insecticides

July 23, 2015

Controlling mosquitoes that carry human diseases is a global health challenge as their ability to resist insecticides now threatens efforts to prevent epidemics. Scientists from the CNRS, IRD, Université Claude Bernard Lyon ...

Understanding human cooperation in a changing world

July 22, 2015

Deep into the Arctic Circle in the far north of Norway, Finland, Sweden and north-west Russia, a few thousand indigenous minority people known as the Saami continue to follow a lifestyle of reindeer husbandry. But their profession ...

Kiwi bird genome sequenced

July 22, 2015

Its unusual biological characteristics make the flightless kiwi a unique kind of bird. Researchers of the University of Leipzig and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have now sequenced ...

Melon genome study reveals recent impacts of breeding

July 14, 2015

The first comprehensive genome analyses of 7 melon varieties was completed by a research team led by Josep Casacuberta, Jordi Garcia-Mas and Sebastian Ramos-Onsins, providing breeders new knowledge important for understanding ...

Recommended for you

Researchers build bacteria's photosynthetic engine

July 29, 2015

Nearly all life on Earth depends on photosynthesis, the conversion of light energy into chemical energy. Oxygen-producing plants and cyanobacteria perfected this process 2.7 billion years ago. But the first photosynthetic ...

Dense star clusters shown to be binary black hole factories

July 29, 2015

The coalescence of two black holes—a very violent and exotic event—is one of the most sought-after observations of modern astronomy. But, as these mergers emit no light of any kind, finding such elusive events has been ...

Scientists unlock secrets of stars through aluminium

July 29, 2015

Physicists at the University of York have revealed a new understanding of nucleosynthesis in stars, providing insight into the role massive stars play in the evolution of the Milky Way and the origins of the Solar System.

Yarn from slaughterhouse waste

July 29, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a yarn from ordinary gelatine that has good qualities similar to those of merino wool fibers. Now they are working on making the yarn even more water resistant.

Studies reveal details of error correction in cell division

July 29, 2015

Cell biologists led by Thomas Maresca at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with collaborators elsewhere, report an advance in understanding the workings of an error correction mechanism that helps cells detect and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.