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Unstable chromosome regions are the origin of yeast's brewing capacity
Date:5/14/2010

The ability of yeast cells to convert sugar to alcohol, the key process in the production of beer and wine, can be attributed to a remarkable evolutionary process. The genes that allow yeast to digest sugars in fruits and grains have been duplicated several times over the course of time allowing for optimal conversion of different types of sugars (such as sucrose and maltose) into alcohol. The duplications arose because the genes for sugar processing are situated close to the unstable margin of the chromosome. The phenomenon appears not to be limited to alcohol production in yeast, but forms an important principle in the evolution of living organisms. The results are presented in a study by Kevin Verstrepen from K.U.Leuven and VIB, a life sciences institute in Flanders, Belgium, Andrew Murray from Harvard University, and Chris Brown, a joint student of Verstrepen and Murray.. The prominent journal Current Biology unveils the study.

Duplication of existing genes is an important evolutionary process

Living beings evolve generation after generation because their genetic material changes gradually. It remains a mystery how life, in a relatively short time, develops completely new properties. It is unlikely that they just appear out of nothing. Recent research, amongst others by VIB-scientists, showed that the duplication of existing genes can play a crucial role. One copy can retain the original function of the gene while the new copy may develop a new function. This can sometimes be very different from the original gene.

Living on the edge increases your chances of being duplicated

In the new study, Chris Brown, a PhD student in Verstrepens lab, shows that some genes that are closely located in the ends of the chromosomes, are duplicated more often. The ends of chromosomes, called subtelomeres, seem to function as evolutionary laboratories of our cells. New genes are continuously developed and tested in these "g
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Contact: Joris Gansemans
joris.gansemans@vib.be
32-472-594-067
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)
Source:Eurekalert

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