By Karen Nikos-Rose
A gene implicated in affecting speech and language, FOXP2, is held up as a “textbook” example of positive selection on a human-specific trait. But in a paper in the journal Cell on Aug. 2, researchers challenge this finding. Their analysis of genetic data from a diverse sample of modern people and Neanderthals saw no evidence for recent, human-specific selection of FOXP2 and revises the history of how we think humans acquired language.
What makes us human? The FOXP2 gene has been associated with uniquely human language abilities. But a new study with a wider variety of people shows no evidence of selection for FOXP2 in modern humans. (Image by Brenna Henn, UC Davis)
Mice share a similar set of genes to humans and gorillas. A catalog of the functions of all mouse genes could help in conservation efforts for endangered species.
A new study from the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium, which includes the UC Davis Mouse Biology Program, shows how the growing catalog of mouse genes could be applied to save endangered species. The paper was published May 24 in the journal Conservation Genetics.
By Greg Watry
The American Gut Project has just produced the largest study yet of microbial diversity in human poop. With “contributions” from more than 11,000 citizen scientists, the team led by researchers at UC San Diego has compiled a public reference database on the human gut microbiome, published May 15 in the journal mSystems. The study is a step forward in understanding how factors such as diet, antibiotics and mental health relate to the microbes living in the human gut.
It’s been widely reported that investigators got a break in the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer case when they uploaded a DNA profile to a genealogy database, GEDmatch, and identified relatives of the suspect, Joseph DeAngelo. Did they get lucky, or did they have a good chance of finding him? UC Davis population biologists Graham Coop and M. D. “Doc” Edge have written a nice explainer of the science behind this search.
DNA overlap between first cousins and their common grandmother (GCBias.org)
This month I talk to Professor Harris Lewin, one of the organizers of the Earth BioGenome Project. The ambitious project to sequence the genomes of all eukaryotic life on Earth within ten years is described in a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Listen: Three Minute Egghead: The Earth BioGenome Project
Earth BioGenome Project Aims to Sequence DNA from All Complex Life on Earth (news release)
Earth BioGenome Project to Sequence All Life: Partnership Announced at World Economic Forum in Davos (news release)
Full post: Podcast: The Earth BioGenome Project
(119 words, 1 image, estimated 29 secs reading time)
By Karley Marie Lujan
Seagrass carpets the seafloor creating a unique and vital ecosystem in shallow marine environments. Sea turtles graze on seagrass leaves while smaller organisms seek refuge in the green fields but, on the microscopic level, seagrass is also home to microbial communities. Such microbes compose the seagrass microbiome and potentially play a role in seagrass ecology.
Sea turtles and other marine animals browse on seagrass meadows. (NOAA photo)
UC Davis graduate student Cassie Ettinger identifies and characterizes seagrass-associated microbial communities. A study published last year in the journal PeerJ suggests how understanding the role of these microbes could reveal new information about seagrass sulfur cycling and establish seagrass as a model organism.
Full post: Investigating the Seagrass Microbiome
(675 words, 1 image, estimated 2:42 mins reading time)
By Greg Watry
Software inspired by speech recognition technology could help scientists understand the secret language inside cells. A machine learning algorithm called patteRNA, designed by UC Davis researchers, rapidly mines ribonucleic acid, commonly called RNA, for specific structures, providing a new method to establish links between structure, function and disease.
The study, co-authored by integrative genetics and genomics Ph.D. student Mirko Ledda and Assistant Professor Sharon Aviran, UC Davis Genome Center, appears in Genome Biology.
Deciphering the biological role of RNA structures
RNA is essential to all biological processes, from gene expression and regulation to protein synthesis. While DNA stores an organism’s genetic information, RNA puts that genetic information to use.
By Carole Gan
UC Davis microbiologists have analyzed swabs taken by astronauts on the International Space Station – and found pretty much the same types of microbes as in a home on Earth, according to an analysis published today (Dec. 5) in the journal PeerJ.
The International Space Station is interesting to scientists studying the microbial ecology of buildings because it is a “building” with very few ways to bring microbes in or out.
Citizen science and Project MERCURRI
The work was part of Project MERCCURI, a collaboration between UC Davis and other organizations including Science Cheerleader, a group of current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing careers in science and math.
By Diane Nelson
About 22,000 years ago, as the ice sheets that consumed much of North America and Europe began retreating, humans started to eat a fruit that today brings joy to millions of wine drinkers around the world: grapes.
People have been making wine from grapes for at least 8,000 years, but genetic evidence shows that humans influenced grape vines long before that (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis).