In recent years scientists have determined the genome sequence of many animals, but many gaps still exist in the animal evolutionary tree. Headway was recently made, however, and three branches representing spiralian animals have now been sequenced. HudsonAlpha faculty investigator Jane Grimwood, Ph.D., contributed to the multi-institute study that spirals in on animal evolution. The study is published in the journal Nature.
The three animals chosen for sequencing included one mollusc and two worms: the giant owl limpet, Lottia gigantea; the marine segmented worm Capitella teleta; and the freshwater leech, Helobdella robusta. Spiralian animals are so named because in early stages of embryo formation their cells divide in a spiral pattern.
Together molluscs and worms account for nearly one-third of known marine species. They also represent important points in evolution, when early animals began to develop both a front and back end, in addition to an “up” side and a “down” side.
Genome sequence from the three organisms shows that splicing of genes, where some parts of the message made from our DNA are cut out and not made into proteins, was clearly already present in the ancestor of animals. The sequences also reveal something about each species: leeches have more genes related to taste and processing of sensory information than the others, while the segmented worm has three times as many receptors as humans do for binding specific proteins. Who knew?
The paper “Insights into bilaterian evolution from three spiralian genomes” is freely available with registration, at Nature.
Media Contact: Beth Pugh
About HudsonAlpha: HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is a nonprofit institute dedicated to innovating in the field of genomic technology and sciences across a spectrum of biological problems. Its mission is three-fold: sparking scientific discoveries that can impact human health and well-being; fostering biotech entrepreneurship; and encouraging the creation of a genomics-literate workforce and society. The HudsonAlpha biotechnology campus consists of 152 acres nestled within Cummings Research Park, the nation’s second largest research park. Designed to be a hothouse of biotech economic development, HudsonAlpha’s state-of-the-art facilities co-locate scientific researchers with entrepreneurs and educators. The relationships formed on the HudsonAlpha campus allow serendipity to yield results in medicine and agriculture. Since opening in 2008, HudsonAlpha, under the leadership of Dr. Richard M. Myers, a key collaborator on the Human Genome Project, has built a name for itself in genetics and genomics research and biotech education, and boasts 26 biotech companies on campus.