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Coelacanth genome surfaces
Date:4/17/2013

ble in length to our own) is yielding valuable clues about the genetic changes that may have allowed tetrapods to flourish on land.

By looking at what genes were lost when vertebrates came on land as well as what regulatory elements parts of the genome that govern where, when, and to what degree genes are active were gained, the researchers made several unusual discoveries:

  • Sense of smell. The team found that many regulatory changes influenced genes involved in smell perception and detecting airborne odors. They hypothesize that as creatures moved from sea to land, they needed new means of detecting chemicals in the environment around them.
  • Immunity. The researchers found a significant number of immune-related regulatory changes when they compared the coelacanth genome to the genomes of animals on land. They hypothesized that these changes may be part of a response to new pathogens encountered on land.
  • Evolutionary development. Researchers found several key genetic regions that may have been "evolutionarily recruited" to form tetrapod innovations such as limbs, fingers and toes, and the mammalian placenta. One of these regions, known as HoxD, harbors a particular sequence that is shared across coelacanths and tetrapods. It is likely that this sequence from the coelacanth was co-opted by tetrapods to help form hands and feet.
  • Urea cycle. Fish get rid of nitrogen by excreting ammonia into the water, but humans and other land animals quickly convert ammonia into less toxic urea using the urea cycle. Researchers found that the most important gene involved in this cycle has been modified in tetrapods.

The coelacanth genome may hold other clues for researchers investigating the evolution of tetrapods. "This is just the beginning of many analyses on what the coelacanth can teach us about the emergence of land vertebrates, including humans, and, combined with modern empirical approaches, can lend insights into
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Contact: Haley Bridger
hbridger@broadinstitute.org
617-714-7968
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3 4

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