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Thumbs up -- a tiny ancestral remnant lends developmental edge to humans
Date:9/4/2008

e, as it did in the published case. This led to the conclusion that the human-versus-chimp pattern of activation was different, consistent with the fast evolution of the human sequence, which may also give rise to a new function.

Previously published work from the Rubin lab by co-authors Shyam Prabhakar (now at the Genome Institute of Singapore), James Noonan (now at the Yale University School of Medicine), and postdoctoral fellows describes a global survey they conducted of genomeshuman, chimpanzee, rhesus macaque, mouse, rat, and dog. They screened across these species to find the most conserved regions, but where humans had many more changes relative to the others. By comparing the occurrence of these features, they were seeking to home in on evidence of positive selectionsequence changes that evolve more rapidly since the human and chimp paths split six million years ago.

When queried about the extent of variation between humans and chimpanzees on a DNA level, the prevailing consensus amongst researchers is that humans are only about one percent different from our furrier friendsmeaning one changed letter of code in one hundred nucleotides. It has long been postulated that the differences are not a consequence of protein-encoding changes, but must be attributed to a more cryptic mechanism because there are not enough sequence changes to account for the obvious differences.

Building on pioneering work in the Rubin lab on the identification and characterization of these conserved noncoding sequences and the changes they induce in the genome the researchers generated a long list of such conserved elements. Using what is known as the "surprisal" test, a statistical tool for determining whether a particular event occurs at a rate greater than chance, they uncovered such a feature, dubbed human-accelerated conserved noncoding sequence 1 (HACNS1). Following the hypothesis that this was a gene regulatory sequence, they took this 546-base
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Contact: David Gilbert
degilbert@lbl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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