Navigation Links
Delegating the dirty work is a key to evolution

EAST LANSING, Mich. We have hundreds of types of cells in our bodies everything from red blood cells to hair follicles to neurons. But why can't most of them create offspring for us?

New research at Michigan State University suggests that separating germ cells sperm and eggs from somatic cells all other cells preserves the genetic building blocks while allowing organisms to flourish in a somewhat hazardous environment.

The results, which appear in the current issue of PLOS Biology, show that having somatic cells do the organism's dirty work helps explain this beneficial evolution.

"The idea we're exploring is that multicellular organisms set aside germ cells to protect their genetic material, letting other cells the soma do the dirty work that damages DNA, their genetic building blocks," said Heather Goldsby, who conducted the research at MSU's BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.

While this study was focused on cells in multicellular organisms, some of the same themes apply to other natural systems. Beehives provide one potential example. The queen would be the germ cell, carrying out the sole task of maintaining the hive's population; and the worker bees would be the somatic cells, fulfilling all of the other necessary duties needed to ensure the hive's health.

Rather than use bees or living organisms for their experiments, the researchers used Avida, a software environment developed at MSU in which self-replicating computer programs compete and evolve.

"The digital organisms in Avida evolve complex traits and behaviors in a natural and open-ended fashion," said Charles Ofria, director of the MSU Digital Evolution laboratory. "Avida is a powerful platform for exploring big evolutionary questions, much faster and more transparently than could ever be done with natural organisms."

This splitting of cellular duties is a hallmark of major transitions in evolution. The team's virtual organisms started with a set of identical cells that initially took no risks, and consequently, reaped no rewards. The organisms slowly evolved to perform some of the highly lucrative dirty work, risking their genomes to do so.

They only truly thrived, however, once they evolved somatic cells that bore the brunt of the dirty work, along side germ cells that transmitted a "clean" genome to the next generation.

Interestingly, the somatic cells performed even more complex functions once they were freed from the burdens of reproduction, which led to higher fitness for the organism as a whole, Ofria added.

As a consequence of doing more dirty work, the soma gets bombarded with mutations. This explains in part why organisms age.

"One theory as to why we age is that our cells become mutated or damaged due to stress," said Goldsby, now at the University of Washington. "This played out during our experiments. The older organisms accumulated harmful mutations and began to perform tasks slower, or to age, while the younger ones outperformed them."


Contact: Layne Cameron
Michigan State University

Related biology news :

1. University of Alberta scientists get dirty at the Robson Glacier
2. Dirty dozen invasive species threaten UK
3. Caught in the act: Study probes evolution of California insect
4. Study uncovers new evidence on species evolution
5. Primates and patience -- the evolutionary roots of self control
6. IU biologists receive $6.2 million to advance research on bacterial evolution
7. How have changing sea-levels influenced evolution on the Galapagos Islands?
8. Getting to the root of enamel evolution
9. Tracking turtles through time, Dartmouth-led study may resolve evolutionary debate
10. Researchers trace HIV evolution in North America
11. Sibling cooperation in earwig families gives clues to early evolution of social behavior
Post Your Comments:
(Date:3/31/2016)... March 31, 2016   ... or the "Company") LegacyXChange is excited to ... its soon to be launched online site for trading ... ) will also provide potential shareholders a sense ... technology to an industry that is notorious for fraud. ...
(Date:3/29/2016)... , March 29, 2016 ... "Company") LegacyXChange "LEGX" and SelectaDNA/CSI Protect are pleased to ... ink used in a variety of writing instruments, ensuring ... of originally created collectibles from athletes on LegacyXChange will ... analysis of the DNA. Bill Bollander ...
(Date:3/22/2016)... , March 22, 2016 ... report "Electronic Sensors Market for Consumer Industry by Type ... Others), Application (Communication & IT, Entertainment, Home ... Global Forecast to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, ... expected to reach USD 26.76 Billion by ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... innovative medical technologies, services and solutions to the healthcare market. The company's primary ... various distribution, manufacturing, sales and marketing strategies that are necessary to help companies ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... discussions on a range of subjects including policies, debt and ... Poloz. Speaking at a lecture to the Canadian ... to the country,s inflation target, which is set by both ... "In certain areas there needs to be ... why not sit down and address strategy together?" ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... its second eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced ... this eBook by providing practical tips, tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. , ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 A person commits ... the crime scene to track the criminal down. ... U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence to ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA has ... to support investigations of foodborne illnesses. Put as simply as ...
Breaking Biology Technology: