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How did higher life evolve?
Date:6/3/2010

With the world's first complete sequencing of a brown algal genome, an international research team has made a big leap towards understanding the evolution of two key prerequisites for higher life on Earth - multicellularity and photosynthesis. As the internationally renowned science magazine Nature reported in its latest issue, about 100 scientists and technicians, during a five-year research project, successfully decoded all hereditary information commonly known as the "genome" - of Ectocarpus siliculosus, an up to 20 cm large brown seaweed, which occurs mainly along coastlines in temperate latitudes. They have analyzed approximately 214 million base pairs and assigned these to about 16,000 genes. The biologists, Dr. Klaus Valentin and Dr. Bank Beszteri of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz-Community have been involved in this global project since the planning phase in 2005.

"As evolutionary scientists we are particularly interested in why the world has developed as we know it today" said Klaus Valentin about this project. "During earth's history, complex multicellular life has evolved from unicellular organisms along five independent paths, which are: animals, plants, fungi, red algae and brown algae." Evolutionary scientists have therefore set themselves the goal to decode a complete genome from a representative of each of these lines and to look for comparable genetic information. "This goal has now been achieved for the brown algal genome. The decoding of a red algal genome has already been completed, and we are currently evaluating the data" says Valentin on the future prospects of comparative genomics. "And indeed, in the brown alga, we found many genes for so called kinases, transporter and transcription factors. Such genes are also commonly found in land plants, and we suspect that they also play a key role in the origin of multicellular organisms".

The sequencing of the bro
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Contact: Klaus Valentin
Klaus.Valentin@awi.de
49-471-483-11452
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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