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:10/9/2015)... Oct. 09 2015 ... of the "Samsung Galaxy S6 Fingerprint ... to their offering. --> ... "Samsung Galaxy S6 Fingerprint Sensor - ... offering. --> Research and Markets ...
(Date:10/7/2015)... --> --> According to ... quarter 2015 amounted to around 960 MSEK. This exceeds the ... communicated 20 August 2015. --> ... continued growing demand for the company,s products, the revenues for ... during the third quarter. The revenue guidance for 2015 is ...
(Date:10/5/2015)... , October 5, 2015 ... update for NXT-ID, Inc. (NASDAQ: NXTD ), a ... market. --> ) releases ... (NASDAQ: NXTD ), a biometric authentication company focused ... SoundView Technology Group ( ) releases ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2015)... ... October 11, 2015 , ... Intelligent Implant ... officially launched and multiple surgeries have been completed with this new posterior thoracolumbar ... Neuroscience & Spine Center of the Carolinas. The Revolution™ Spinal System pioneers ...
(Date:10/9/2015)... , Oct. 9, 2015 On October ... the Congressional Record her statement recognizing the third annual ... 11-17. IPAW is sponsored by the Plasma Protein ... is designed to:   , Raise global awareness ... plasma donors in saving and improving lives , ...
(Date:10/9/2015)... 2015  DePuy Synthes Trauma* announced today the U.S. ... Technology**, the only pre-hydrated demineralized cancellous bone tissue ... and ankle, hand and wrist), including fusion, and for ... the 2015 Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) Annual Meeting. ... new bone growth) and osteoinductive 2,3 (stimulates new ...
(Date:10/9/2015)... San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) , ... October 09, 2015 , ... ... with a study that aims to better understand the relationship between weight management and ... more frequently and more accurately from participants using an iPhone app. , The uBiome ...
Breaking Biology Technology: