Centre scientist Dave Miller made the cover of the biologist's version
of 'Rolling Stone' when his work was featured on the December
of Current Biology. His work characterising an expressed gene
from the coral Acropora millipora revealed that coral possess many of
genes previously thought to be characteristic of vertebrates like man.
So significant are the implications of this finding that it was
in a Nature editorial (426: 744) and was featured on the Science
Magazine web site. Carina Dennis, writing for Nature, said,
"This finding means that although fly and worm models are useful for
gene function in development and cellular processes, they may be of
value in studies of evolution of human genes."
PRESS RELEASE: Coral and Man -
Not so Distant
The earliest animals wandered
around on the ancient
seabed with a swag of genes common to you and I, a new study reveals.
The research by scientists at JCU
and the Australian
National University turns upside down many traditional assumptions
what makes vertebrates such as man unique, and what has happened at the
level of the genome during animal evolution.
Researchers who analysed the genes
the coral Acropora millepora discovered many of the same genes as those
found in humans but which are distinctly absent from animals such as
fruit fly and nematode worm.
The findings are reported this
week in the Current
Reader in Biochemistry and
Molecular Biology at
JCU and co-author of the paper, Dr David Miller, said many coral genes
were surprisingly like human genes, although the roles of these genes
to be established.
Dr Miller said it had generally
been assumed that
the complexity of the human body relative to simpler animals such as
worms or corals was the result of new types of genes that arose during
the evolution of vertebrates.
These conclusions were drawn after
the fruit fly and nematode worm revealed both these creatures lacked
types of genes found in humans, he said.
"The major surprise from the
project is that the
coral genome contains many genes previously known only from
Dr Miller said.
"The existence of the genes in a
that rather than having evolved in vertebrates, many genes previously
to be vertebrate-specific in fact have much older origins and have
been lost from organisms like the fly and nematode worm kicked out as
these invertebrate lineages evolved," he said.
"That such a simple animal should
genes associated with complex functions in mammals is counterintuitive.
"A major challenge now is to
explore the likely
roles of these coral genes in order to better understand which aspects
of gene function are common between corals, some of the simplest of
animals, and humans, one of the most complex."