Sydney: Researchers have found new evidence of advanced DNA regulation in an ancient marine organism that shows crucial mechanisms turning genes on and off may have originated much earlier than thought, a discovery that points to better understanding of genetic processes and disease treatment.
The study, co-led by Australian researchers, analysed the DNA of “Amphioxus” and uncovered the “tricks” used to control gene expression, which may have originated much earlier than thought, Xinhua news agency quoted a statement by Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia.
The translucent fish-like organism lay “right at the vertebrate-invertebrate boundary” and was “perfectly positioned to help us understand how our genomes made the leap from invertebrate to vertebrate”, said lead author Ozren Bogdanovic from the institute.
“With Amphioxus, we have one of the closest living invertebrate relatives to humans which is almost a vertebrate but not quite,” he added.
The ancient organism helped offer evidence of regions that are used to regulate gene expression, for the first time, in an invertebrate specie, he noted, in the paper published in the journal Nature.
“It tells us that this mechanism of regulation might have appeared millions of years earlier,” he said. “And this tells us a lot about how DNA regulation evolved, but also helps us understand more about how it works in more complex organisms, like ourselves.”
The next step in the study is to continue investigating the link between vertebrates and invertebrates, to gain a better understanding of DNA regulation, said Bogdanovic.
“This will allow us to deepen our understanding of how DNA regulation works, and especially how it goes wrong in diseases. Understanding these processes has the potential to help us better understand and ultimately treat diseases,” he said.