Scientists identify how development of different species uses same genes with distinct features

Mar 30, 2007

Biologists at New York University have identified how different species use common genes to control their early development and alter how these genes are used to accommodate their own features. The findings, which were discovered by researchers in Professor Claude Desplan’s and Steve Small’s laboratories in NYU’s Center for Developmental Genetics, offer new insight into the workings of developmental pathways across species. The study is published in the latest issue of the journal Science.

The researchers examined the fruit fly Drosophila and the wasp Nasonia as genetic model systems. Fruit flies’ development is well-understood by biologists and therefore serves as an appropriate focus for genetic analyses. In this study, the researchers sought to explore the generality of developmental mechanisms by comparing Drosophila with Nasonia, a distant species that diverged over 250 million years ago but one that presents many morphological similarities with flies in terms of development.

The research team’s results showed that flies and wasps employ most of the same genes and similar interactions among these genes, but some events are changed to adjust to the developmental constraints.

Flies rely on a gene called bicoid to pattern their early embryo. The bicoid gene product, a messenger RNA (mRNA), is localized at the anterior of the embryo where it is required both to promote anterior development and to repress posterior development. However, bicoid is unique to flies and does not exist in wasps or other species: The study’s findings show that it takes several mRNAs localized in the egg to achieve the same functions in wasps as bicoid does in flies. Two of these genes, which are found in most species of insects, are orthodenticle. Orthodenticle performs the anterior promoting function of bicoid while anterior localization of giant mRNA represses posterior development.

"This comparison of the molecular mechanisms employed by two independently evolved species not only uncovers those features essential to this portion of development, but also shows that we are now in a position to understand another species—in this case, the wasp—other than flies in the same depth," explained Desplan.

Source: New York University

Explore further: Scientists discover RNA modifications in some unexpected places

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Microalgae – the factories of the future

12 hours ago

Biology professor Ralf Kaldenhoff is making microalgae fit for industry. The microorganisms could produce a variety of products from carbon dioxide and light.

Plant diversity in China vital for global food security

Sep 08, 2014

With climate change threatening global food supplies, new research claims the rich flora of China could be crucial to underpin food security in the future. The research was presented at the British Science Association's ...

The future of our crops is at risk in conflict zones

Sep 08, 2014

Wild species related to our crops which are crucial as potential future food resources have been identified by University of Birmingham scientists, however, a significant proportion are found in conflict ...

A single evolutionary road may lead to Rome

Sep 08, 2014

A well-known biologist once theorized that many roads led to Rome when it comes to two distantly related organisms evolving a similar trait. A new paper, published in Nature Communications, suggests that w ...

Recommended for you

Scientists discover tropical tree microbiome in Panama

10 hours ago

Human skin and gut microbes influence processes from digestion to disease resistance. Despite the fact that tropical forests are the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystems on the planet, more is known about ...

User comments : 0