Genetic cut-and-pasting gave us limbs

10 July 2012


New research led by Jordi Garcia-Fernández and Manuel Irimia at the University of Barcelona and published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports suggests that genetic "cut and pasting" could have been the driving factor behind the origin of vertebrate limbs.

The scientists compared the hedgehog gene in simple invertebrate fish-like creatures called amphioxus with the version in zebrafish, which are vertebrates because they have a bony spine.

The team discovered that an event called a chromosomal translocation, where two bits of DNA in the genome get accidentally cut and pasted next to each other, led to the vertebrate version of the hedgehog gene - Sonic Hedgehog - being switched on in a new part of the body, which eventually evolved to become limbs.


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