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UCSB study reveals evolution at work
Date:2/27/2014

ntion of some of these new noncoding genes, microRNAs, and the appearance of a new structure, the OSVZ," Kosik said. "Trying to connect an anatomical, morphological invention with genes is very difficult, but our work shows a possible molecular basis for the tools that were needed to build this novel structure."

The analysis found that these new microRNAs target old genes, many involved in the cell cycle, which is responsible for cell division (mitosis). "Nearly all cells throughout evolution have a cell cycle," Kosik explained. "We can watch the evolutionary process at a very molecular level, see what is novel and how molecular innovation affects what already exists, like the cell cycle. When new things are invented in evolution, they have to be integrated with what already exists.

"What I find fascinating is that the whole ancient cellular mechanism of cell division still has enough evolutionary space left to make something new and to make something new that's really complex," he added. "The OSVZ gave rise to primates' expanded brains and to the cells that ultimately brought us Shakespeare."

According to Kosik, the microRNAs he studied are a melding of molecular and anatomical information. "Some of the genes we found that are the targets of these new microRNAs are also involved in certain human developmental disorders that are genetic," he said.

"One place we would like to go with this information is to explore pathways that may be manipulated to help patients in some way," he said. "We know people with developmental disorders may be missing a critical gene involved in brain formation and wiring, so maybe if we understood the control of those genes as these new data are pointing to we might be able to do something that could be applied to a human condition."


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Contact: Julie Cohen
julie.cohen@ucsb.edu
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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