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Evolution and epilepsy
Date:1/21/2009

per. "The similarity in anchor sequences could not arise by chance. Seeing them in both channel types was comparable to a person arriving at a new job, and seeing that their new coworker wore exactly the same clothes, drove the same model and color of car, and had a spouse and children with the same names. It seemed inexplicable."

To solve the mystery, the researchers studied the channels of classes of animals that evolved earlier than vertebrates, including sea urchins and primitive organisms related to vertebrates called lancelets, sea squirts, and lampreys. The project received a boost, because the genomes of each of these organisms are currently being sequenced, supported by the National Human Genome Research Institute. Analysis of the channels from these primitive organisms solved the mystery.

The Rise of the Sodium Channel

The new findings, reported in the December 26th issue of PLoS Genetics, show that the sodium channel anchor sequence arose much earlier than previously known, at perhaps the most important turning point in biological history, the beginning of the so-called Cambrian Explosion (550-530 million years ago). During the Cambrian Explosion, all the major groups (or phyla) of animals alive today suddenly in an evolutionary time scale appeared. The new analysis showed that all members of the phylum Chordata, which includes lancelets, sea squirts, and lampreys, as well as vertebrates, have sodium channels with the anchor sequence.

The sodium channels of nonchordates (including invertebrates such as insects and mollusks) lacked this clustering sequence. This is important because sodium channel clustering makes nerve signaling much more rapid, reliable, and energy-efficient. As chordates evolved into vertebrates, they relied on the sodium channel clusters as components of increasingly complex systems for sensation, brain computation, and control of body movement. All other animals, lacking the ability
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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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