Científicos encuentran "martillo rediseñado" que forjó la evolución del embarazo en mamíferosContributed by: Anonymous · Views: 1,785
Contributed by: Anonymous · September 29, 2008 @ 12:29 PM MDT · Views: 1,785
Scientists Find “Redesigned Hammer” That Forged Evolution of Pregnancy in Mammals
Vincent Lynch: “Resurrected genes from the extinct ancestors
of mammals helped us find a change that promoted development
of the uterus and placenta.” (credit Wagner/Yale)
Yale researchers have shown that the origin and evolution of the placenta and uterus in mammals is associated with evolutionary changes in a single regulatory protein, according to a report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Gunter Wagner: “Transcription factors can play an active role in the origin and evolution of structural innovations.”
Pregnancy is a biologically unusual situation where one organism lives and develops inside another that is genetically different. Ordinarily, the immune system identifies and destroys the dissimilar tissue as if it were a parasite. But in some early mammals, changes ‘turned down’ the immune system, allowing the developing embryo to grow and thrive unchallenged by the maternal immune response.
With the evolution of the uterus and placenta, it became possible for mammals to protect their growing young and to ensure they were not exposed to an unpredictable environment, like their egg-laying relatives. This study identified one of the genetic switches that tempered the immune system and allowed formation of the placenta and internal development of young.
By analyzing DNA from many species of mammals, including resurrecting genes from the extinct ancestors of mammals, the researchers found that a crucial regulatory link in the evolution of pregnancy involved the altered function of a transcription factor protein, HoxA-11.
The specific change they found in HoxA-11 is present in all known placental mammals — from elephants, the most primitive lineage with a placenta, to humans — but does not exist in marsupials, like opossums or wallabies, where there is a brief and rudimentary pregnancy followed by development of the offspring outside the mother, or in egg-laying mammals like the platypus.
The textbook story is that regulatory proteins, like HoxA-11, are ancient, universal and unchanging tools, and that new functions arise by using an existing tool from the gene regulatory ‘toolbox’ in a new or different place.
According to Yale graduate student Vincent Lynch, lead author of the study, “We are writing a different chapter. In this case the function of a major regulatory tool was altered — it is like we found a redesigned hammer.”
Other authors include Andrea Tanzer and Deena Emera at Yale, Yajun Wang and Frederick C. Leung at the University of Hong Kong, and Birgit Gellersen at Endokrinologikum Hamburg, Germany. The research was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
Citation: Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (early online September 17, 2008)
PRESS CONTACT: Janet Rettig Emanuel 203-432-2157
Credits: Yale University