Project description:We have sequenced miRNA libraries from human embryonic, neural and foetal mesenchymal stem cells. We report that the majority of miRNA genes encode mature isomers that vary in size by one or more bases at the 3’ and/or 5’ end of the miRNA. Northern blotting for individual miRNAs showed that the proportions of isomiRs expressed by a single miRNA gene often differ between cell and tissue types. IsomiRs were readily co-immunoprecipitated with Argonaute proteins in vivo and were active in luciferase assays, indicating that they are functional. Bioinformatics analysis predicts substantial differences in targeting between miRNAs with minor 5’ differences and in support of this we report that a 5’ isomiR-9-1 gained the ability to inhibit the expression of DNMT3B and NCAM2 but lost the ability to inhibit CDH1 in vitro. This result was confirmed by the use of isomiR-specific sponges. Our analysis of the miRGator database indicates that a small percentage of human miRNA genes express isomiRs as the dominant transcript in certain cell types and analysis of miRBase shows that 5’ isomiRs have replaced canonical miRNAs many times during evolution. This strongly indicates that isomiRs are of functional importance and have contributed to the evolution of miRNA genes Sequence library of miRNAs from a single sample of human foetal mesenchymal stem cells. Results tested and confirmed by northern blotting. Please note that only raw data files are available for the embryonic and neual samples and thus, directly submitted to SRA (SRX547311, SRX548700, respectively under SRP042115/PRJNA247767)
Project description:Defining the distinctive capacities of Homo sapiens relative to other hominins is a major focus for human evolutionary studies. It has been argued that the procurement of small, difficult-to-catch, agile prey is a hallmark of complex behavior unique to our species; however, most research in this regard has been limited to the last 20,000 years in Europe and the Levant. Here, we present detailed faunal assemblage and taphonomic data from Fa-Hien Lena Cave in Sri Lanka that demonstrates specialized, sophisticated hunting of semi-arboreal and arboreal monkey and squirrel populations from ca. 45,000 years ago, in a tropical rainforest environment. Facilitated by complex osseous and microlithic technologies, we argue these data highlight that the early capture of small, elusive mammals was part of the plastic behavior of Homo sapiens that allowed it to rapidly colonize a series of extreme environments that were apparently untouched by its hominin relatives.
Project description:Recent developmental studies demonstrate that early fossil hominins possessed shorter growth periods than living humans, implying disparate life histories. Analyses of incremental features in teeth provide an accurate means of assessing the age at death of developing dentitions, facilitating direct comparisons with fossil and modern humans. It is currently unknown when and where the prolonged modern human developmental condition originated. Here, an application of x-ray synchrotron microtomography reveals that an early Homo sapiens juvenile from Morocco dated at 160,000 years before present displays an equivalent degree of tooth development to modern European children at the same age. Crown formation times in the juvenile's macrodont dentition are higher than modern human mean values, whereas root development is accelerated relative to modern humans but is less than living apes and some fossil hominins. The juvenile from Jebel Irhoud is currently the oldest-known member of Homo with a developmental pattern (degree of eruption, developmental stage, and crown formation time) that is more similar to modern H. sapiens than to earlier members of Homo. This study also underscores the continuing importance of North Africa for understanding the origins of human anatomical and behavioral modernity. Corresponding biological and cultural changes may have appeared relatively late in the course of human evolution.
Project description:How did human symbolic behavior evolve? Dating up to about 100,000 y ago, the engraved ochre and ostrich eggshell fragments from the South African Blombos Cave and Diepkloof Rock Shelter provide a unique window into presumed early symbolic traditions of Homo sapiens and how they evolved over a period of more than 30,000 y. Using the engravings as stimuli, we report five experiments which suggest that the engravings evolved adaptively, becoming better-suited for human perception and cognition. More specifically, they became more salient, memorable, reproducible, and expressive of style and human intent. However, they did not become more discriminable over time between or within the two archeological sites. Our observations provide support for an account of the Blombos and Diepkloof engravings as decorations and as socially transmitted cultural traditions. By contrast, there was no clear indication that they served as denotational symbolic signs. Our findings have broad implications for our understanding of early symbolic communication and cognition in H. sapiens.
Project description:The geometric morphometric analysis of shape variation in complex biological structures such as the human skull poses a number of specific challenges: the registration of homologous morphologies, the treatment of bilateral symmetry, the graphical representation of form variability in three dimensions and the interpretation of the results in terms of differential growth processes. To visualize complex patterns of shape change, we propose an alternative to classical Cartesian deformation grids in the style of D'Arcy W. Thompson. Reference to the surface structures of the organism under investigation permits a comprehensive visual grasp of shape change and its tentative interpretation in terms of differential growth. The application of this method to the analysis of human craniofacial shape variation reveals distinct modes of growth and development of the neurocranial and viscerocranial regions of the skull. Our data further indicate that variations in the orientation of the viscerocranium relative to the neurocranium impinge on the shapes of the face and the cranial vault.
Project description:We investigated the evidence of recent positive selection in the human phototransduction system at single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and gene level.SNP genotyping data from the International HapMap Project for European, Eastern Asian, and African populations was used to discover differences in haplotype length and allele frequency between these populations. Numeric selection metrics were computed for each SNP and aggregated into gene-level metrics to measure evidence of recent positive selection. The level of recent positive selection in phototransduction genes was evaluated and compared to a set of genes shown previously to be under recent selection, and a set of highly conserved genes as positive and negative controls, respectively.Six of 20 phototransduction genes evaluated had gene-level selection metrics above the 90th percentile: RGS9, GNB1, RHO, PDE6G, GNAT1, and SLC24A1. The selection signal across these genes was found to be of similar magnitude to the positive control genes and much greater than the negative control genes.There is evidence for selective pressure in the genes involved in retinal phototransduction, and traces of this selective pressure can be demonstrated using SNP-level and gene-level metrics of allelic variation. We hypothesize that the selective pressure on these genes was related to their role in low light vision and retinal adaptation to ambient light changes. Uncovering the underlying genetics of evolutionary adaptations in phototransduction not only allows greater understanding of vision and visual diseases, but also the development of patient-specific diagnostic and intervention strategies.
Project description:Kynureninase is a member of a large family of catalytically diverse but structurally homologous pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (PLP) dependent enzymes known as the aspartate aminotransferase superfamily or alpha-family. The Homo sapiens and other eukaryotic constitutive kynureninases preferentially catalyze the hydrolytic cleavage of 3-hydroxy-l-kynurenine to produce 3-hydroxyanthranilate and l-alanine, while l-kynurenine is the substrate of many prokaryotic inducible kynureninases. The human enzyme was cloned with an N-terminal hexahistidine tag, expressed, and purified from a bacterial expression system using Ni metal ion affinity chromatography. Kinetic characterization of the recombinant enzyme reveals classic Michaelis-Menten behavior, with a Km of 28.3 +/- 1.9 microM and a specific activity of 1.75 micromol min-1 mg-1 for 3-hydroxy-dl-kynurenine. Crystals of recombinant kynureninase that diffracted to 2.0 A were obtained, and the atomic structure of the PLP-bound holoenzyme was determined by molecular replacement using the Pseudomonas fluorescens kynureninase structure (PDB entry 1qz9) as the phasing model. A structural superposition with the P. fluorescens kynureninase revealed that these two structures resemble the "open" and "closed" conformations of aspartate aminotransferase. The comparison illustrates the dynamic nature of these proteins' small domains and reveals a role for Arg-434 similar to its role in other AAT alpha-family members. Docking of 3-hydroxy-l-kynurenine into the human kynureninase active site suggests that Asn-333 and His-102 are involved in substrate binding and molecular discrimination between inducible and constitutive kynureninase substrates.
Project description:The genetic architecture of the craniofacial complex has been the subject of intense scrutiny because of the high frequency of congenital malformations. Numerous animal models have been used to document the early development of the craniofacial complex, but few studies have focused directly on the genetic underpinnings of normal variation in the human craniofacial complex. This study examines 80 quantitative traits derived from lateral cephalographs of 981 participants in the Fels Longitudinal Study, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio. Quantitative genetic analyses were conducted using the Sequential Oligogenic Linkage Analysis Routines analytic platform, a maximum-likelihood variance components method that incorporates all familial information for parameter estimation. Heritability estimates were significant and of moderate to high magnitude for all craniofacial traits. Additionally, significant quantitative trait loci (QTL) were identified for 10 traits from the three developmental components (basicranium, splanchnocranium, and neurocranium) of the craniofacial complex. These QTL were found on chromosomes 3, 6, 11, 12, and 14. This study of the genetic architecture of the craniofacial complex elucidates fundamental information of the genetic architecture of the craniofacial complex in humans.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Protein-coding regions in a genome evolve by sequence divergence and gene gain and loss, altering the gene content of the organism. However, it is not well understood how this has given rise to the enormous diversity of metazoa present today.<h4>Results</h4>To obtain a global view of human genomic evolution, we quantify the divergence of proteins by functional category at different evolutionary distances from human.<h4>Conclusion</h4>This analysis highlights some general systems-level characteristics of human evolution: regulatory processes, such as signal transducers, transcription factors and receptors, have a high degree of plasticity, while core processes, such as metabolism, transport and protein synthesis, are largely conserved. Additionally, this study reveals a dynamic picture of selective forces at short, medium and long evolutionary timescales. Certain functional categories, such as 'development' and 'organogenesis', exhibit temporal patterns of sequence divergence in eukaryotes relative to human. This framework for a grammar of human evolution supports previously postulated theories of robustness and evolvability.