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Mechanisms of Evolution

Beyond Darwin and Neo-Darwinism

Molecular Genetics

Molecular genetics is the study of molecules and mechanisms involved in genetic inheritance. Archival information molecules are long polymers of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) comprising bases in specific sequence. The bases adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G), function as codon triplets – sequences of three bases that code for specific amino acids or for translation initiation (start codons) or termination (stop codons). Uracil is substituted for thymine in RNA.

The segments of DNA that contain protein-coding instructions are called genes, and these gene sequences comprise a portion of the total genome of a cell. The genome includes both the genes (coding-sequences, domains) and the non-coding sequences – both exons, which include open reading frames, and introns.

Because the 64 possible combinations of GATC code for only the 20 amino acids commonly found in proteins, the code is 'degenerate' (redundant) with more than one triplet combination coding for each amino acid. (This code reduncancy provides hereditary stability by reducing mutation mistakes.) The double helix of DNA comprises paired nucleotide strands with bases hydrogen bonded to complementary bases in the adjacent chain. Adenine pairs with thymine or uracil (A-TU), and cytosine pairs with guanine (CG).

During cellular reproduction, strands of archival DNA are copied or replicated. Transcription is the first step in gene expression – DNA instructions are converted into mRNA codons, rRNAs, miRNAs, and tRNAs. Coding instructions of nucleotide sequences in archival DNA, which have been transcribed and processed into mRNAs are translated into polypeptides and proteins at cytoplasmic ribosomes. Translation is the ultimate step in gene expression, in which archival genetic instructions are converted into specified sequences of amino acids in peptides, polypeptides, and proteins.

In prokaryotic cells – without a nuclear membranetranslation into polypeptides and proteins may begin prior to termination of transcription. The molecular genetics of eukaryotic cells is more complicated than that of prokaryotes. Various molecules of ribonucleic acid (RNA) participate in the transcription of the DNA code into processed mRNA in a series of RNA processing stages including capping, polyadenylation, and pre-mRNA splicing.Following pre-mRNA processing, RNAs undergo extranuclear transfer. Mature RNAs may undergo post-transcriptional modulation (via miRNAs) before translation of the archival DNA instructions into specific sequences of amino acids in the polypeptides and proteins that participate in cellular function and structure. Transfer RNAs (tRNA) deliver specific amino acids to the cytoplasmic ribosomes along the rough endoplasmic reticulum. Ribosomal RNAs participate in assembly of polypeptides and proteins at ribosomes. Here RNAs serve as ribozymes – non-protein enzymes.

A number of processes are involved in control of cellular function through the maintenance of accuracy of genetic inheritance – damage to DNA is repaired, and faulty RNA is destroyed.

DNA damage may result from replication errors, incorporation of mismatched nucleotides (substitution errors – transitions and transversions), oxygen radicals, hydroxyl radicals, ionizing or ultraviolet radiation, toxins, alkylating agents, and chemotherapy agents. A number of vital mechanisms repair DNA damage to bases (including C to T, C to U, and T U mismatch) and to strands, including double strand breaks. All organisms, prokaryotic and eukaryotic, utilize at least three enzymatic excision-repair mechanisms for damaged bases: base excision repair, mismatch repair, and nucleotide excision repair.

Given the importance of mRNA as an information-carrying molecule, faulty pre-mRNAs and mRNAs must be eliminated – they are destroyed by nonsense-mediated decay or nonstop decay:
1. A pre-mRNA made from a mutant gene usually has an exon junction complex (EJC) in the wrong position. This error activates nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) and destroys the pre-mRNA before it can be used to make flawed proteins. There are at least two kinds of NMD: one requires the protein UPF2 and the other does not.
2. Nonstop decay is mRNA turnover mechanism that has none of the properties of normal mRNA turnover or of NMD. A multi-enzyme complex called the exosome is important for nonstop decay. The exosome is the site for binding of a specific adapter protein called Ski7p. Nonstop decay shares none of the enzymes required for nonsense-mediated decay.

 Table Mechanisms of Biological Evolution :  Gene Regulation in E.coli :


Blogger qtr said...

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12:07 PM  
Blogger qtr said...

Allopatric speciation occurs when a geographical barrier sub-divides a parent species, resulting in geographic and reproductive isolation such that the descendent species can no longer interbreed upon removal of the barrier.

Anagenesis differs from cladogenesis in that one species progressively transforms into a replacement species when sufficient gene mutations fix in the descendant population. At this point, the ancestral species has become extinct. This mechanism is distinct from the increase in numbers of species generated by cladogenetic branching events.

Cladogenesis is the mechanism of speciation in which one or more lineages (clades) arise from an ancestral line. Such speciation events increase the variety of plants or animals through branching of the phylogenetic tree. Cladogenesis is differentiated from anagenesis, which is the in toto replacement of one species by an anatomically distinct species.

Monophyletic taxon or clade: an accurate grouping of only (opp. polyphyletic) and all (opp. paraphyletic) descendents of a shared common ancestor. A monopyletic group is genetically homogeneous and reflects evolutionary relationships.

Paraphyletic taxon or clade: a monophyletic group that excludes one or more discrete groups descended from the most recent common ancestral species of the entire group. Other descendent species of the most recent common ancestor have been excluded from the paraphyletic taxon, usually because of morphologic distinctiveness.

Phenetic system: groupings of organisms based on mutual similarity of phenotypic (physical and chemical) characteristics. Phenetic groupings may or may not correlate with evolutionary relationships.

Phylogenetic system: groups organisms based on shared evolutionary heritage. DNA and RNA sequencing techniques are considered to give the most meaningful phylogenies.

Phylogenetic separation into evolutionary relationships (clades), based on comparison of genomes is likely to supplant phenotypical (phenetic) taxonomies of the prokaryotes.

Peripatry (paripatry) is a subset of allopatry in which an isolated group has a smaller population than the parent group. Ernst Mayr introduced the term. Peripatric speciation occurs when the smaller sub-group of a species enters a novel niche within the range of the parent species, becoming geographically and reproductively isolated. Peripatric speciation (paripatric) is distinguished from allopatric speciation by the smaller size of the isolate group, and from sympatric speciation, which involves no barrier to breeding.

Polyphyletic taxon: opposite to monophyletic taxon: A polyphyletic group is mistakenly or improperly erected on the basis of homoplasy.—characteristics that have arisen despite not sharing a common ancestor. Homoplasy arises because of convergent evolution, parallelism, evolutionary reversals, horizontal gene transfer, or gene duplications. Polyphyletic taxa are genetically heterogeneous because members do not share a common ancestor.

Neontology is a branch of biology that emphasizes the study of modern biota (living or recent organisms) rather than fossilized organisms (paleontology).

Numerical Taxonomies are a common approach to phenetic taxonomy that employ a number of phenotypic characteristics to generate similarity coefficients that may be mapped in dendrograms. Groupings based on numerical taxonomy may or may not correlate with evolutionary relationships.

Taxonomies aim to group organisms according to shared characteristics against the background of biological diversity.

Sympatry involves no geographical separation of sub-populations of individuals. Sympatric speciation events occur most often in plants by the mechanism of polyploidy in which the number of chromosomes is doubled or tripled. John Maynard Smith proposed a model called disruptive speciation, in which homozygotes might have greater fitness than heterozygotes under some environmental conditions.

4:55 PM  

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