Cornell researchers have played a major role in an international scientific team that has compared the complete set of genes of 12 closely related fruit fly species. As well has having implications for human health -- from genetic adaptation to evolving immune systems -- the analysis paves the way for better understanding the evolution of each species.
From the results of the research, the Cornell scientists coordinated one of the two papers published this week in the journal Nature. The team, known as the Drosophila12 Genomes Consortium, represented 16 countries and was supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health National Human Genome Research Institute.
"By looking at a wider number of species, we had much greater power to detect genes and regulatory elements from the way the sequences diverged between species, and to test models of what evolutionary pressures those genes and regulatory elements must have faced," said Andrew Clark, Cornell professor of population genetics and one of the paper's co-authors.
Drosophila (fruit flies) are one of most studied and most important model organisms used in genetics research. Many fruit fly genes are also found in humans and control the same biological functions. As a result, fruit fly research has led to discoveries related to the influence of genes on diseases, animal development, population genetics, cell biology, neurobiology, behavior, physiology and evolution.
The comparative method of this study allows researchers to see which genes have stayed the same and which have diverged, since all 12 species shared a common flylike ancestor some 60 million years ago. The directions in which genes have diverged provide evidence of evolution within each species.
"Methodologically, the study demonstrates the effectiveness of contrasting multiple genomes," said Clark. He and his Cornell colleagues coordinated the evolutionary analysis and worked with colleagues around the world on writ
|Contact: Blaine Friedlander|
Cornell University Communications