Two genetic code tweaks 500 million years ago caused evolutionary jump

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Modern day reproductive systems are the result of changes in two letters of genetic code that took place 500 million years ago, a team of geneticists has discovered


"If those two mutations had not happened, our bodies today would have to use different mechanisms to regulate pregnancy, libido, the response to stress, kidney function, inflammation, and the development of male and female characteristics at puberty," Joe Thornton, a professor of human genetics, ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, said in a statement. 

Tweaks in how proteins function have been key to how humans evolve, and this study demonstrates how the smallest of mutations can be responsible for vital permanent changes. It also gives some insight as to how genetic code works to change those functions, and Thornton believes discoveries such as these will have a key role to play in developing targeted drugs that combat genetic mutations — the better we understand how genetic mutations occur, the better equipped we'll be to combat unhelpful ones. 

The team made the discovery by retracing today's steroid hormone receptor proteins' historical steps, choosing this group of proteins for their wide-ranging roles in controlling hormones for reproduction and development. 

Written By: Liat Clark
continue to source article at wired.co.uk

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  1. Read Daniel J. Fairbanks Evolving: The Human Effect and Why It Matters
    He explains all kinds of technical things about genetics in reasonably easy to understand language, including how they can tell when a given mutation occurred, how new species form, what determines which two animals can breed, the rates of mutation.

  2. “If those two mutations had not happened, our bodies today would have to use different mechanisms to regulate pregnancy, libido, the response to stress, kidney function, inflammation, and the development of male and female characteristics at puberty,”

    Nice assumption… but, based on what?

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