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New study documents use of hormone progesterone in simple microscopic aquatic animals
Date:6/14/2010

A new study shows that humans and tiny aquatic animals known as rotifers have something important in common when it comes to sex.

Barely visible without a microscope, rotifers eat algae and serve primarily as food for baby fish. But the females of certain rotifer species can do something quite unusual: they can reproduce asexually by creating clones of themselves, or they can initiate a process that allows sexual reproduction by producing male rotifers.

The chemical mediator for this change from asexual to sexual reproduction turns out to be progesterone a simple molecule that also plays a vital role in regulating reproduction and sexual development in humans and many other species. Finding this sex steroid and its receptor in simple rotifers suggests that the progesterone signaling technique dates back hundreds of millions of years.

"This has really important evolutionary implications," said Julia Kubanek, a professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and one of the study's principal authors. "Our study shows that the identical steroid molecule found in humans and rotifers is used for two very different aspects of reproduction."

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the research was scheduled to be published June 14, 2010, in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study is believed to be the first to document the use of progesterone in the lineage of simple animals that includes rotifers and has been largely unchanged for millions of years.

Most animals reproduce sexually, a method that makes a species more adaptable by facilitating the elimination of bad genes and creating potentially beneficial new gene combinations. Very simple organisms, such as bacteria, reproduce through cell division and obtain new genetic material from the environment.

The rotifer species Brachionus manjavacas is somewhere
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Contact: John Toon
jtoon@gatech.edu
404-894-6986
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert  

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