Key brain gene shows evolution in humans

Dec 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: Explainer: How to solve a jewel heist (and why it takes so long)

Related Stories

"Living outside the Earth is a huge challenge"

May 08, 2015

Susana Zanello is an expert of human adaptation to life in space. Invited as an academic guest at EPFL, this renowned scientist agreed to share her views on her research, exploration, future trips to Mars ...

Recommended for you

Top UK scientists warn against EU exit

3 hours ago

A group of leading British scientists including Nobel-winning geneticist Paul Nurse warned leaving the European Union could threaten research funding, in a letter published in The Times newspaper on Friday.

How we discovered the three revolutions of American pop

4 hours ago

Dr Matthias Mauch discusses his recent scientific analysis of the "fossil record" of the Billboard charts prompted widespread attention, particularly the findings about the three musical "revolutions" that shaped the musical la ...

User comments : 0

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.