OCT 22, 2018 6:44 AM PDT

Duplication Events in the Genome Drive Evolution

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The majority of plants that grow in the wild and on farms have undergone some kind of duplication event in their genomes, such as when two species combine into one. When an organism has extra sets of chromosomes from such events, it’s called polyploid; plants often carry four sets of chromosomes. While it’s been suggested for some time that this process encourages evolution, it’s challenging to analyze these large and complex genomes and therefore, it’s been difficult to prove that hypothesis. Work by an international team of researchers has now demonstrated it. Reporting in Nature Communications, they used a plant called Arabidopsis kamchatica for their study.

Arabis kamchatica, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK, USA / Credit: NPS / Jacob W. Frank

Led by Timothy Paape and Kentaro Shimizu from the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies of the University of Zurich (UZH), the team sequenced 25 different Arabidopsis kamchatica samples. They also sequenced 18 samples of its parental plants, all of which were taken from different areas around the world.

The two parental plants were A. halleri and A. lyrata, which hybridized naturally at least 65,000 years ago. The resulting A kamchatica plant has a relatively small genome for a polyploid species, but it is still a complex one. The researchers were able to use cutting-edge sequencing methods to reveal the genetic sequences carried by their plant samples. This large and complicated genome has enabled the species to survive in changing environmental conditions.

"With these results, we have demonstrated on a molecular-genetic level that genome duplications can positively affect the adaptability of organisms," noted plant scientist Timothy Paape. The plant can test out new mutations, some of which may be advantageous and others that may not, all while retaining regular copies of essential genes.

The duplicate genome it carries has allowed A. kamchatica to thrive in various parts of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Taiwan, Japan, and the Russian Far East. 

"Knowing the genomic and evolutionary context also helps us understand how genetic diversity allows plants to adapt to changing environmental conditions," said Kentaro Shimizu.

Check out the video above to learn more about how new genetic information arises.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via UZH, Nature Communications

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAY 31, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Regulating Gene Expression with Electricity
MAY 31, 2020
Regulating Gene Expression with Electricity
Scientists have created many different implantable devices and medicines that are as simple as pacemakers or as complex ...
JUN 07, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
An Imaging Tool That Could Speed the Diagnosis of Rare Diseases
JUN 07, 2020
An Imaging Tool That Could Speed the Diagnosis of Rare Diseases
When children have a rare genetic disease and do not have access to whole-genome sequencing and the analysis it requires ...
JUN 14, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Denisovan DNA Influences the Immune System of Oceanian People
JUN 14, 2020
Denisovan DNA Influences the Immune System of Oceanian People
As species in the genus homo evolved, our ancient ancestors interbred with populations of Neanderthals and Denisovans.
JUN 19, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
A Standard for the Identification of Large Genetic Mutations
JUN 19, 2020
A Standard for the Identification of Large Genetic Mutations
Many human diseases can be traced back to errors in the genome - genetic mutations. But finding the mutations can be cha ...
JUN 29, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Why Two Similar Bacterial Toxins Cause Different Illnesses
JUN 29, 2020
Why Two Similar Bacterial Toxins Cause Different Illnesses
The microbial pathogens of the world have shown us how powerful they can be, most recently proven by the current pandemi ...
JUL 31, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Researchers Create an Epigenetic Map of Development
JUL 31, 2020
Researchers Create an Epigenetic Map of Development
The protein-coding genes in the genome produce protein when they're active, or expressed. Learning how gene activity is ...
Loading Comments...