Researcher studies gene families to explore diversity and evolution

Aug 01, 2006

Theoretical biologist Stephen Proulx studies gene families to explore how genomes become diverse and evolve. The Iowa State University assistant professor uses mathematical tools and computer models to determine how environmental and evolutionary factors -- like seasonal change, migration and sexual preference -- structure a genome.

One path to diversity in a genome involves the proliferation of genes into multi-gene families.

"The growth of a gene family can occur through rare errors in DNA replication," Proulx said. "Sometimes in error, a single gene is duplicated on a chromosome, and the duplicated copy can emerge as a new functional gene. Although that gene may have a new function, it's not fundamentally different from the original gene."

Proulx wants to be able to explain that process. "We also want to know if changing the size of gene families is a way by which an organism becomes more complex," he said.

In a recent paper published in the journal Evolution, Proulx and colleague Patrick Phillips, professor, University of Oregon, Eugene, show that the process of gene family expansion can begin even before a gene is duplicated. The first step in the process involves specialization of different variants of a gene that can then take on different functions once the gene is duplicated by chance.

The article was recently featured as a "Hidden Jewel" on the Faculty of 1000 Web site, a journal review site that posts expert opinions on current research papers. Proulx thinks it has generated considerable interest in the biological community because it shows how the process of adaptation can play a role in generating organismal complexity.

Proulx's model calculates the exact conditions under which evolutionary pressures cause genes to diverge.

"One of the things I'm trying to do is provide an ecological and environmental context for genome evolution," he said. "And what I continue to see is that these ecological factors can play a really large role."

Source: Iowa State University of Science and Technology

Explore further: Fighting bacteria—with viruses

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fighting bacteria—with viruses

44 minutes ago

Research published today in PLOS Pathogens reveals how viruses called bacteriophages destroy the bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which is becoming a serious problem in hospitals and healthcare institutes, due to its re ...

Noise pollution impacts fish species differently

1 hour ago

Acoustic disturbance has different effects on different species of fish, according to a new study from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter which tested fish anti-predator behaviour.

Atomic structure of key muscle component revealed

1 hour ago

Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and when you look more closely at its fundamental role in life, it's easy to see why. It is the basis of most movement in the body, and all cells and components ...

Recommended for you

Monkeys fear big cats less, eat more, with humans around

25 minutes ago

Some Monkeys in South Africa have been found to regard field scientists as human shields against predators and why not if the alternative is death by leopard? The researchers found the monkeys felt far safer ...

Study indicates large raptors in Africa used for bushmeat

13 hours ago

Bushmeat, the use of native animal species for food or commercial food sale, has been heavily documented to be a significant factor in the decline of many species of primates and other mammals. However, a new study indicates ...

The microbes make the sake brewery

14 hours ago

A sake brewery has its own microbial terroir, meaning the microbial populations found on surfaces in the facility resemble those found in the product, creating the final flavor according to research published ahead of print ...

Fighting bacteria—with viruses

15 hours ago

Research published today in PLOS Pathogens reveals how viruses called bacteriophages destroy the bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which is becoming a serious problem in hospitals and healthcare institutes, due to its re ...

User comments : 0