Saturday, 26 May 2012

Rise of the Planet of Apes?

Okay, so at the University of Oxford and University of Chicago scientists basically created a genetic map of recombination of chimpanzees – the world’s first.

This biological process – Recombination –shuffles DNA and is a fundamental process that nearly every life form on earth goes through, because without, we would, genetically, be all identical.

The Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute led the project of how recombination has evolved in both recent human and primate history. By identifying the differences in ten western chimpanzees entire genome they were able to study the evolution pattern.

They found that for every one thousand bases of A, C, G and T, there was one base different. Because of this, they mapped the genetic material in chimpanzees ancestors and were able to see where the material had shuffled due to recombination. They found that around 40% of the recombination events happened after a  particular 13-letter sequence of DNA was present.

Then comparing those recombination events to that of humans, there was no overlap (picture right).  Considering that there is 98.5 per cent similarity between genomes of humans and chimpanzees, and extensive similarities at cellular and organism level, it was extraordinarily unexpected.

A protein called PRDM9 was recently found in a research, and seems to bind to the 13-letter DNA sequence in chimps, so they were hoping, like in the movie “Rise of the Planet of Apes”, that it would make them smarter, more human-like if you will.

The protein plays a central part in identifying where recombination event can occur in humans and that gave hope to scientists, but the gene that produces this protein differs significantly between humans and chimpanzees, which means the PRDM9 protein will likely target different locations for recombination within human and chimpanzee genomes, explaining the lack of overlap of recombination hotspots.

so basically, in the end, the protein, because it is so different in humans compared to chimpanzees, didn’t affect the chimps at all. So no need to worry about apes rising in status and taking over, we can all relax for a while until they find some other protein that may do the job.

by Rebecca Farrell.


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