Human evolution: specific DNA sequences (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Thursday, November 24, 2022, 19:11 (6 days ago) @ David Turell

How DNA changed to drive human ecvolution:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/11/221123114249.htm

"A team of Duke researchers has identified a group of human DNA sequences driving changes in brain development, digestion and immunity that seem to have evolved rapidly after our family line split from that of the chimpanzees, but before we split with the Neanderthals.

Our brains are bigger, and are guts are shorter than our ape peers.

"A lot of the traits that we think of as uniquely human, and human-specific, probably appear during that time period," in the 7.5 million years since the split with the common ancestor we share with the chimpanzee, said Craig Lowe, Ph.D., an assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology in the Duke School of Medicine.

"Specifically, the DNA sequences in question, which the researchers have dubbed Human Ancestor Quickly Evolved Regions (HAQERS), pronounced like hackers, regulate genes. They are the switches that tell nearby genes when to turn on and off. The findings appear Nov.23 in the journal Cell.

"The rapid evolution of these regions of the genome seems to have served as a fine-tuning of regulatory control, Lowe said. More switches were added to the human operating system as sequences developed into regulatory regions, and they were more finely tuned to adapt to environmental or developmental cues. By and large, those changes were advantageous to our species.

"'They seem especially specific in causing genes to turn on, we think just in certain cell types at certain times of development, or even genes that turn on when the environment changes in some way," Lowe said.

"A lot of this genomic innovation was found in brain development and the GI tract. "We see lots of regulatory elements that are turning on in these tissues," Lowe said. "These are the tissues where humans are refining which genes are expressed and at what level."

"Today, our brains are larger than other apes, and our guts are shorter. "People have hypothesized that those two are even linked, because they are two really expensive metabolic tissues to have around," Lowe said. "I think what we're seeing is that there wasn't really one mutation that gave you a large brain and one mutation that really struck the gut, it was probably many of these small changes over time."

***

"'So, we know the Neanderthal sequence, but let's test that Neanderthal sequence and see if it can really turn on genes or not," which they did dozens of times.

"'And we showed that, whoa, this really is a switch that turns on and off genes," Lowe said. "It was really fun to see that new gene regulation came from totally new switches, rather than just sort of rewiring switches that already existed.'"

Comment: other studies of these regions have shown they sped up our evolution. Not surprising that we have special genes when we are so special.


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