DEC 31, 2020 9:35 AM PST

One Sequence Produced a Multitude of Hemoglobin Genes

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Scientists can learn more about genes and their functions by assessing them in different organisms. This kind of genetic analysis also provides insights into evolution. Scientists have now learned more about the evolution of the hemoglobin gene, which encodes for a protein that transports oxygen in the blood. Reporting in BMC Evolutionary Biology, the researchers determined that although the hemoglobin gene has appeared independently in a variety of animals, all of these genes trace back to a single common ancestor.

Image credit: Pixabay

Hemoglobin transports oxygen in the circulatory systems of vertebrates as well as mollusks, crustaceans, and worms called annelids. Since diverse species all carry their own hemoglobin genes, it was assumed that nature produced these animals' hemoglobin genes on different occasions several times; this study suggests that's not the case.

This research utilized the marine worm Platynereis dumerilii, which is known for evolving slowly. That's because its genomic characteristics are similar to an animal called Urbilateria, which is thought to be a marine ancestor of many animals. It is the last common ancestor of all animals that display left-right symmetry and complexity in their organs.

Hemoglobins are part of a group of loosely related proteins, the globin superfamily of a-helical proteins that bind heme, which are found in almost all animals that use gases like oxygen or nitric oxide. Globins do not circulate in the blood like hemoglobins, however; they act in cells. This research suggested that in every species that has red blood, the same, original 'cytoglobin' gene evolved to become a gene that produced what we know as hemoglobin. Early versions of hemoglobin could have been better at transporting oxygen, which may have made certain species larger or more active.

In this study, the researchers compared the genetic sequence of the hemoglobin gene in Platynereis to many other species that have red blood. Hemoglobin is what gives blood its red tint. But this research suggests that globin genes evolved "pre-blood" in the Urbilateria organism, and these genes are still carried by Platynereis.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), BMC Evolutionary Biology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 27, 2020
Immunology
The Genetics of Skin Inflammation, Seen With Unprecedented Clarity
OCT 27, 2020
The Genetics of Skin Inflammation, Seen With Unprecedented Clarity
A recent study published in Immunity details MIT scientists’ exploration of the underlying mechanisms of inflammat ...
NOV 20, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
How a Genetic Mutation Can be Good for Carriers
NOV 20, 2020
How a Genetic Mutation Can be Good for Carriers
Genetic mutations are usually connected to disease, but there are some that are known to improve people's lives.
DEC 04, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
An 'Off' Switch to Improve CRISPR Precision
DEC 04, 2020
An 'Off' Switch to Improve CRISPR Precision
The CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool has tremendous potential to treat genetic diseases, but sometimes it makes unintended ...
DEC 09, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Weed-Killer Causes Epigenetic Changes That May Predict Disease Risk
DEC 09, 2020
Weed-Killer Causes Epigenetic Changes That May Predict Disease Risk
Glyphosate is a common weed-killing chemical used in agriculture, and it may be best known as the active ingredient in R ...
DEC 14, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
tRNA Plays a Role in the Immune Response to Stroke
DEC 14, 2020
tRNA Plays a Role in the Immune Response to Stroke
At one time, researchers knew that various forms of RNA served a few different critical roles in the creation of protein ...
JAN 20, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Mutations in One Gene Can Lead to Cancer in Different Ways
JAN 20, 2021
Mutations in One Gene Can Lead to Cancer in Different Ways
Cancer and genetics are linked; for example, when a cell's genome accumulates mutations it can begin to divide uncon ...
Loading Comments...