Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Our closest wormy cousins: About 70% of our genes trace their ancestry back to the acorn worm
The study found that all deuterostomes share 8,600 families of genes, and that approximately 14,000 or about 70% of our genes trace their ancestry back to the original deuterostomes. By comparing the genomes of the acorn worm to other animals the group of researchers found the presence of these genes in the common ancestor of all the deuterostomes, which is a now extinct animal that live half a billion years ago. The study showed that the pharyngeal gene cluster, which forms the slit in the acorn worm, is a characteristic unique to the deuterostome family and could be linked to the development of the pharynx in the humans, which is the regions that links the mouth and nose to the esophagus.
The gene cluster was found to only exist in deuterostomes and is not found in non-deuterostomes. The gene cluster contains six genes ordered in a common pattern, that includes the genes for four proteins that are crucial transcription regulators that control the activation of numerous other genes. The DNA that codes for these genes, as well as some of the DNA pieces that are used as binding site for the transcriptions factors is shared and conserved among all deuterostomes.
I find this article extremely interesting because it shows how genetics and our genes can be used in the concept of evolution. The fact that we can trace our genes back billions of years and find common ancestors of modern day animals that are so different is extraordinary. It really shows the power of genetics and shows how our genetics can be so similar yet small changes can drastically change our development.
For a link to the original article click here
For more information about this discovery click here
To learn more about the acorn worm click here