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Burmese python genome reveals extreme adaptation
Date:12/2/2013

AURORA, Colo. (Dec. 2, 2013) Scientists from the University of Colorado School of Medicine who sequenced the genome of the Burmese python have discovered large numbers of rapidly evolved genes in snakes.

These genetic changes are linked to extreme characteristics in snakes, such as rapid increases in metabolism and organ growth after feeding, findings that open a novel window into how evolution works at the molecular level.

"The bottom line is that snakes have undergone incredible changes at all levels of their biology, from the physiological to the molecular," said David Pollock, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the CU School of Medicine. "Snakes appear to have functionally evolved much more than other species. They are a crucible of evolution."

Pollock is the principle investigator of the study to appear December 2, 2013 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He and fellow researchers, including lead author Todd Castoe, a former postdoctoral fellow at the CU School of Medicine now at the University of Texas at Arlington, found that snakes carry large numbers of proteins with signatures for positive selection in their ancestors.

This paper, and a companion paper in PNAS detailing the genome of the King Cobra, represent the first complete and annotated snake genomes.

"One of the fundamental questions of evolutionary biology is how vertebrates with all the same genes display such vastly different characteristics," Castoe said. "The Burmese python is a great way to study that because it is so extreme. We'd like to know how snakes uses genes we all have to do things no other vertebrate can do."

Extreme characteristics of the snake such as metabolism, spine and skull shape and cell cycle regulation are linked to positive selection in hundreds of genes.

"When you have positive selection you have a lot of adaptation going on," Pollock sa
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Contact: david kelly
david.kelly@ucdenver.edu
303-503-7990
University of Colorado Denver
Source:Eurekalert

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