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: Scholar's new book explores fierce debates over immigration

Related Stories

Viruses: You've heard the bad—here's the good

Apr 30, 2015

"The word, virus, connotes morbidity and mortality, but that bad reputation is not universally deserved," said Marilyn Roossinck, PhD, Professor of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology and Biology at the Pennsylvania ...

Genetic variation is a necessity

Apr 28, 2015

The Earth is constantly changing. For new species to be able to adapt and cope with the changes, there must be sufficient genetic diversity, or genetic variation, in the population. But what type of diversity is required ...

Single cells seen in unprecedented detail

Apr 27, 2015

Researchers have developed a large-scale sequencing technique called Genome and Transcriptome Sequencing (G&T-seq) that reveals, simultaneously, the unique genome sequence of a single cell and the activity ...

The appeal of being anti-GMO

Apr 24, 2015

A team of Belgian philosophers and plant biotechnologists have turned to cognitive science to explain why opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has become so widespread, despite positive contributions ...

Recommended for you

Challenges medical relief teams face after disaster

4 hours ago

As medical relief teams from Nepal and the rest of the world work to distribute supplies and care for survivors, it's worth understanding how health workers handle extreme emergency situations.

Dinosaur-times cockroach caught in amber, from Myanmar

May 01, 2015

Geologica Carpathica has a paper on a new family of predatory cockroaches. Predatory? The authors, Peter Vrsansky and Günter Bechly, from the Slovak Republic and Germany, respectively, said that "unique adapta ...

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.