Navigation Links
The evolution of the mustards' spice
Date:8/30/2012

DURHAM, N.C. -- There's a reason people don't put gobs of mustard on a hot dog. Mustard plants produce a spicy chemical intended to discourage insects from eating them lest they suffer a bad case of heartburn, and it has essentially the same effect on us.

Now, an interdisciplinary and international group of researchers based at Duke University has figured out why some of those wild mustard plants vary as much as they do in terms of that spice. The variation spells the difference between life and death for the plants in the mountainous Rockies where they live, a place where environmental conditions can change quite significantly over relatively short distances.

The study reported in the August 31 issue of the journal Science is one of very few to successfully follow the genes underlying variation of complex traits in a natural setting back to the evolutionary processes that influenced them.

"We were able to put this story together all the way from the plants in the dirt to the amino acids in the laboratory," said Tom Mitchell-Olds, a professor of biology and member of the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy. "That's where the challenge came in."

Mitchell-Olds' team studies the wild mustard Boechera stricta. Boechera is their organism of choice because its close relationship to the laboratory plant Arabidopsis offers them technical advantages and because the plants live in areas that have been untouched and unchanged for the last 3,000 years.

The researchers first identified a broad region in the plants' genome that was responsible for differences in their chemical defenses, vulnerability to insects and survival and reproduction in nature. "Technically, we had no idea what this would be," Mitchell-Olds said.

Ultimately, they traced those differences back to two amino acid changes in the enzyme controlling the plants' main spicy ingredient. With sophisticated biochemistry, the researchers discovered that this seemingly slight difference alters the spice-building pathway to produce a different defensive chemical -- different in a way that apparently matters quite a lot to insects. When plants carrying the version of that enzyme normally found in Colorado were planted in Montana, they struggled to survive as insects took their toll. When Montana plants were established in Colorado, they too got hammered by bugs.

While the findings may have some agricultural applications, Mitchell-Olds says he is more interested in understanding natural variation and the evolutionary forces that have shaped that variation over thousands of years.

"We've been able to go to places where the environment is intact, where these genotypes have been sitting around for 3,000 years in the place where they evolved in the first place, and do science," Mitchell-Olds said. "This variation we see reflects history. We finally have the tools to find the genes and to understand their influence on physiology and fitness, and that's pretty cool."


'/>"/>
Contact: Kendall Morgan
kendall.morgan@duke.edu
919-684-2850
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Leading evolutionary scientist to discuss how genome of bacteria has evolved
2. An evolutionary surprise
3. Ancient Egyptian cotton unveils secrets of domesticated crop evolution
4. Did climate change shape human evolution?
5. A University of Tennessee professors hypothesis may be game changer for evolutionary theory
6. Analysis of stickleback genome sequence catches evolution in action
7. Study shows unified process of evolution in bacteria and sexual eukaryotes
8. Rapid method of assembling new gene-editing tool could revolutionize genetic research
9. Whats in a surname? New study explores what the evolution of names reveals about China
10. Scientists trace evolutionary history of what mammals eat
11. Not by DNA alone: How the epigenetics revolution is fostering new medicines
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/2/2016)... 2, 2016 Checkpoint Inhibitors for Cancer ... Are you interested in the future of ... checkpoint inhibitors. Visiongain,s report gives those predictions to ... national level. Avoid falling behind in data ... and revenues those emerging cancer therapies can achieve. ...
(Date:2/1/2016)... NEW YORK , Feb. 1, 2016  Today, ... Heart Association (AHA) announced plans to develop a first ... cognitive computing power of IBM Watson. In the first ... disease, AHA, IBM (NYSE: IBM ), and Welltok ... metrics and health assessments with cognitive analytics, delivered on ...
(Date:1/25/2016)...  Glencoe Software, the world-leading supplier of image data ... provide the data management solution OMERO Plus for the ... Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20160125/325328LOGO ... Phenotypic analysis measures the characteristics and behavior of ... states such as health and disease, the presence or ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... ... has announced a new agreement with Bankok,Thailand-based Global Stem Cells Network (GSCN) to ... in 15 Latin American countries, including Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Argentina, ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... , February 10, 2016 Early-career researchers ... , Peru , Uganda and ... life-enhancing work in health and nutrition   Indonesia ... Uganda and Yemen are being ... and epidemiology. They are also celebrated for mentoring young women scientists who ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... ASAE is introducing a hybrid membership model which will ... of joining or renewing through an organizational purchasing model. ... every employee in any size association or AMC office ... member benefits.   John H. Graham, IV ... allow organizations of any size and their employees to ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... 2016  Allergan plc (NYSE: AGN ) a ... Saunders , Allergan,s CEO and President, will be featured ... at the RBC Capital Markets Healthcare Conference on Tuesday, ... New York Palace Hotel in New York, ... and can be accessed on Allergan,s Investor Relations web ...
Breaking Biology Technology: