January 29, 2007 12:55 PM PST

Study: Genetic info swapped between different species

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June 9, 2005
Researchers at Rice University have created a mathematical model that helps build the argument that evolution doesn't proceed solely through breeding and genetic mutations. Rather, organisms also swap large sections of DNA.

The study, published in the January edition of Physics Today, sheds additional light on one of the enduring mysteries of evolution, namely its seemingly accelerating rate of change. Fossil records indicate that single-cell life forms emerged 3.5 billion years ago, and then it took 2.5 billion years for multicell organisms to appear. Animals, plants and birds then took only 1 billion years to develop.

A principal factor in this acceleration is horizontal gene transfer (HGT), according to Michael Deem, the John W. Cox Professor in Biochemical and Genetic Engineering and a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice. In HGT, an organism will give (or exchange) large chunks of its own genetic material to another in a process that can be described as a naturally occurring gene graft.

Proteins produced by the native genetic code of an organism allow the organism to accept and graft the new genes into its own genome.

"It is like having a lot of genetic mutations at once. Enzymes allow DNA to be excised from one species to us," Deem said. "Bacterial geneticists have worked on HGT for 15 to 20 years, but not many of the other evolutionary biologists (have)."

Many HGT insertions, like most genetic mutations, will have no impact on the development of a species, and some transfers will be deleterious, he said. A small fraction of the transfers, however, will lead to sudden, beneficial changes in an organism's genome.

Some studies have stated that the adaptive immune system in humans and vertebrates resulted from an HGT insertion 400 million years ago.

"It led to a dramatic change for invertebrates," he said. "With HGT, a whole population becomes resistant at once."

The mathematical model created by Deem and visiting professor Jeong-Man Park simulates how beneficial HGT insertions propagate across a species.

See more CNET content tagged:
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58 comments

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Talk about grabbing at straws! Evolution is a farce!
It's amazing the lengths 'believers' (in evolution) will go to to try
and prop up their faltering theory. Science has progressed beyond
you. The evidence for design is building day by day, as it
simultaneously corrects the 'evidence' for evolution. What exactly
do you have left now anyway? Stop feeding the general public the
lies just because they aren't reading the current scientific literature.
Posted by CentrOS (126 comments )
Reply Link Flag
you're dumb
If science has progressed beyond the theory of evolution, no
scientist would accept it as a theory. But the fact is that 95% of
scientists support evolution and believe that humans and apes
share a common ancestor. That's an overwhelming majority.
Posted by shoeblayo (3 comments )
Link Flag
My grandpa wasn't no bacterium!
Who designed your Designer? Oh, that's right, your all-powerful and all-knowing Creator just popped into existence from nothing--which is certainly much more credible than the idea that living systems evolved over time from simpler systems. Your Creator has a nasty sense of humor, planting all those millions of fossils in the Earth to make it appear that life forms have come and gone, presumably to trick the faithless into believing a lie. Is the evidence for a flat Earth still building day by day, too?
Posted by Logotrope (10 comments )
Link Flag
Wow! What astounding delusion!
Scientists need not go through hoops to prove the theory of evolution. They just let the mountain of evidence do the talking. Since Darwin, the validity of evolution by natural selection has only grown stronger by the day. The theory has never faltered.

On the other hand, how can one honestly claim that "the evidence for design is building day by day?" Other than a few papers (none peer-reviewed) published by the Discovery Institute and its allies, there is scant proof in favour of Intelligent Design. I suppose you consider those papers "current scientific literature."

It seems the deep divisions within US society today are due to more than just political or ideological reasons. There is also an intellectual chasm between the enlightened on one end and the ignorant and deluded on the other.
Posted by joe_bloggs_who (54 comments )
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Why the conflict?
I always saw that evolution was the How, God was the Why of evolution. It's like saying there is an architect and he uses a hammer and nails to build a house. The building process doesn't mean there's no architect, and the presence of the architect doesn't mean there isn't a building process going on.

For some people, only the How matters, for others, only the Why matters.

So, why the conflict? The world is not an either-or type of place.
Posted by bluemist9999 (1020 comments )
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rational religion and evolution don't seem to conflict
I realize that some religios beliefe's see evolution as a series of mistakes and since the religions deity could never possibly be wrong, evolution must then be blasphemy and false.

Wouldn't it be more blasphemous for us lowly mortals to presume to know the mind and methods of a deity? Is it not a little presumtuas to think that a lowly mortal is responsible for managing the public relations of a deity? Is it not possible that evolution is the physical manifistation and your applicable deity's work?

But then, I'm guessing your located in the good and wholsome bible belt heartland where teaching Evolution has been banned in schools.

Let's look at it another way:

A. an all powerful invisible man built everythign as it is now with no changes in the 2000 years that our calendar (calendar proving that the world is only 2000 years old). All those strange bones of similar but not exactly looking life forms carbon dated too before 2000 years ago are all a global conspiracy too thwart you and the 5% of the global population that your flavour of religion guides.

B. a seriese of naturaly occuring changes in the biological structure of organisms continues to premote the speciment of each spiecies most adapted to there environment; be those changes incrementally made by a deity force or through blind luck and genetic mixing.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a nock at anyone who chooses to believe in a religion; it's the blatant decision to choose ignorance and disregard modern knowledge blinding yourself to a simple biological fact. Don't jump on a science and technology website and start telling the world that Evolution is a farce because you and a hundred thousand other people arbitrarily decided it was so.

Rabits are fuzzy, bears poop in the woods, changes occure between generations of life.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
Your particular genetic swap
Your comments are evidence that you have apparently swapped brain DNA with a jackass....
Posted by Get_Bent (534 comments )
Link Flag
Careless Writing
There is a carelessness in this article that fails to distinguish the theory of this one professor from known processes. Reading this article would likely lead one to assume that his theory is proven. I find this oddly antithetical to the nature of scientific reporting.
Posted by Techno Guy (77 comments )
Reply Link Flag
harsh and misleading assesment
I must disagree with your assesment as I feel it is overly harsh and somewhat misleading. It is true that much of what is reported in the article is overly simplified and a complete treatise wasn't presented, but, this article was just that a brief report of findings simplified for non-professional readers. First, everyone who knows anything about science and scientific process knows that no hypothesis or theory is ever proven but supported or shown false with evidence. Therefore to assume that an assumption of proof of his theory with evidence presented is misleading. Second, to criticize author of articles aimed at non-scientists for presenting a brief synopsis of fairly recent, surprising and nonstandard findings that some may find intereting, and not printing a complete manuscript for a professional journal is overly harsh.
Posted by swamijie (11 comments )
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always been
it's very difficult to explain to anyone that you saw a ghost. how do you prove it? the only way is to live a life of integrity before you saw the ghost and then and only then would you receive some credit. even film isn't proof.

i saw a ghost...er i heard a ghost...er well i...had an experience that defies explanation. i know that experience was God.

i don't mean to sound doubtful. i know "something" happened and it changed my life forever. i can't make science out of that. i do however now understand why i can't and that's even more interesting.

my point is i can't prove God stopped running the universe and took time out of his day to tap insignificant me on the shoulder and say "follow me".

i can't prove the world isn't flat either . science tells me it's not but,science says things that destroys it's integrity.
however the bible tells me the world is a sphere and that God "hung it in the heavens".

it took science a couple of thousand years to report that. just like the erms the bible talks about that science didn't learn of until the micoscope came along.

given the record of science and my intimate knowledge of God, I choose to trust God when he says he has always been. that's a lot easier than to believe something as intricate as life "just happened". just like the day you bought home that puzzle or model and threw it on the table and it came out completed. yeah right bunky!!!

YOU DO REALIZE DARWIN RECANTED!!!that's a historical fact unlike his theory that was made into law in so called christian america.

you go ahead and use all that pea brain that developed from a single cell which fell to earth from space when we can't even get a multi million dollar shuttle through there safely and i will believe in my God that's always been but, if you're american, you didn't get your freedom to have your own opinion from anybody but a bunch of theistic old white guys that copied the statutes of the country they built from a bible.
Posted by nedmorlef (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Do some real research: Darwin did not recant
There is no documentary evidence that Darwin ever recanted. None of his family members or close friends heard him do so. In fact his family publicly rubbished those claims made by a certain lady evangelist. Darwin's wife, who was religious and known to be troubled by her husband's scepticism, would have been overjoyed had he changed his mind. So, why did she not support that lady's claims?

In science, evidence is king. The word of people of "integrity" must be backed up by facts before being accepted. Otherwise, people with no history of deceitful behaviour may be treated as credible sources of truth...and Elvis is still alive!

Just because people do not share your faith in the veracity of a story book written centuries ago, does not mean they have pea brains. The vast majority of scientists ? intelligent people by most accounts ? accept the premise of evolution by natural selection. Surely, these people have cerebral capacities exceeding yours. So, before you hurl such insults, you would do well to look in the mirror first. Also, engaging in REAL research usually helps prevent one's embarrassment from spouting nonsense.

Oh, regarding those "theistic old white guys", here is a sample of what they said:

I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature. - Thomas Jefferson

Question with boldness, even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear. - Thomas Jefferson

The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. - George Washington

Also, here's what one of the most respected US Presidents had to say about his belief:

The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma. - Abraham Lincoln
Posted by joe_bloggs_who (54 comments )
Link Flag
here I thoguth you where going to say, I saw god, live and let live
"YOU DO REALIZE DARWIN RECANTED!!!that's a historical fact unlike his theory that was made into law in so called christian america."

You mean recanted to the church at a time when the (mortal man) run church was an authority even above governments and not recanting would have meant life long imprisenment or death.

Yeah, I hear imprisonment and tourcher always result in accurate findings.

Unlike the overwelming amount fo hundres of years of research supported by an overwealming majority of peer reviewed scientists rather than the unsupported articles of a few religion dedicated "scientists" who have only published in non-peer review journals.

Hm.. side with the few people saying "we're right and your going to hell for not believing what we believe explicitly" or the majority of peer reviewed and supported people saying "uh, well, this seems to be how evolution works, we really don't know the cause but research supports the say so far". Hm.. the close minded "this is how we decided it is" or the open minded "seems like this for now, may change in the future".

I'm a good little christian but I gotta go with the science on this. Being that it doesn't conflict or reduce the meaning of one's religious beliefes or seek to ignore information and purpetuate ignorance.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
Absolutely Correct!!!
Thanks for explaining to our brainwashed humanistic breathren the truth of life. There is a God, and He created the universe and everything in it. "[B]ecause that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools . . ." (Romans 1:18-22)
Posted by godfrey veritas (7 comments )
Link Flag
Bzzzzt! Wrong answer ...
But, we have some lovely parting gifts.

Sorry, evolution is strictly theory. Not been proved, in whole or in part, in or out of a lab. Try again.

Steve G.
Posted by aureolin (52 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Evolution is a LAW, not a theory
Sorry, but you know absolutely nothing about the subject about
which you speak. Which makes your attempt at sarcasm that
much more pathetic.

First of all, you apparently know nothing about the scientific
method. It is a central tenet of this method, stemming from a
logical imperative, that NOTHING can be proven. As such, saying
that something has "not been proved" os hardly a condemnation.
Please name a single thing that has been.
You also apparently do not know the definition of the word
theory, as used in science. Again, theories are not proved, only
disproved.
You seem to think that a theory is somehow a weaker cousin of
a law. This highlights your ignorance. In fact, it is the other way
round. A law, which can not be disproved, is thus a far weaker
construct than a theory.
In particular, BY DEFINITION, a law is a "summary of observed
fact." This is not a debatable point. this is what the word is
defined to mean, period. An example of this is the Law of
Gravity. This law is just a codification of the fact that every time
an object is allowed to fall toward another, it always has done so
in a particular fashion, governed by its mass and the mass of its
neighbor, and the distances between them. Laws, in general, are
assumed to also be minimally predictive. It is assumed that
objects will continue to fall in this way. The fact that a law has
no ability to be disproved, only verified, gives it very little
intellectual power.
There are any number of explanations for WHY objects behave in
this way. These are the so-called Theories of Gravity. These ARE
subject to being disproved, and as such, when a particular
theory weathers the storm of the scientific method unscathed, it
emerges on the other side with significant predictive and
intellectual power. The ones that fail this test are discarded.
So too, evolution. Evolution means one thing, "change." The law
of evolution states that life changes form. Again, this is really
not a debatable point. Not only is the fossil record replete with
empirical examples, it has been shown repeatedly under
laboratory settings that life changes form. There used to be
dinosaurs, now there are not. There is no record of there having
been any humans 300 million years ago. Now, evidently, there
are some.
What is at issue, or at least should be, if ANY degree of
intellectual honesty is being exemplified (an infrequent
occurrence by Creationists, to be sure) is the mechanism by
which this change is caused. In the time of Darwin, there were a
number of competing explanations, including the theories of
Lemark. Darwin and Wallace postulated an alternative theory, the
theory of natural selection. This theory has withstood ALL
attempts to assail it, with only minor modifications, and as such
is one of the most successful theories of all time.
The fact that it is "only" a theory is what gives it its power.
Trying to denigrate it on this account is a pure indication of
scientific and philosophical ignorance.
Oh, and by the way, are you a biologist? No? Yeah, I didn't think
so. So where do you get your assurance that evolution and
natural selection has never been demonstated in or out of the
lab? Certainly not from peer-reviewed scientific literature.
Whether you agree or not, it is simply reprehensible of you to
make this claim from absolutely no authority whatsoever.
Apparently you get your "facts" from answersingenesis.org.

If you had bothered to even take 1 minute to research your claim
before you started spouting your mouth garbage, you would
have found that, despite the lies proffered to you by
ignoramuses like Dr. Gish, natural selection most certainly HAS
been shown, both in the lab as well as without. You ignorance of
this does not make it any less so, it just makes you ignorant.
There have been an number of speciation events shown in
microscopic flora and fauna, where events proceed quickly
enough to see thousands of generations in the lab. There have
been any number of demonstrations of speciation in the wild.
One interesting case involved the spontaneous generation of
sexually reproducing individuals from a population of
parthenogenetic fish. By definition, these communities can not
interbreed, and as such fulfill all criteria for speciation.
Just because yo udo not know something does not make it not
so. The fact that you don't even bother to try to find out if the
things you spout are true makes you intellectually weak at best,
a liar at worst, and in either case, appear as a buffoon.
Posted by DeusExMachina (516 comments )
Link Flag
Everybody *knows*
Remember Columbus? Or did you skip that bit of history? The world was flat because that's what you were taught. "Everybody Knows That".

Nowadays, everyone believes in evolution because that's what you're taught. "Everybody Knows That".

The real problem is that open-minded scientific inquiry is no longer allowed on this subject. The topic has become completely polarized between bad science on one side and religion on the other. Real Science openly welcomes, nay, invites questions. But, questioning evolution is not allowed. (Just look at the responses to this blog post, if you don't believe me). Evolution is dogma, not science.
Posted by aureolin (52 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Evolution isn't dogma yo
evolution has evidence, that's why people accept it. If you want
to question it (which you CAN DO), you have to present evidence
that will backup your ideas. Evolution is NOT dogma, because if
you present evidence that disproves evolution, any scientist will
gladly refuse to accept evolution. Religion is DOGMA, because
even in the face of the enormous evidence for evolution,
evangelicals and religous people still refuse to accept it as real.

If evidence arises that offers an alternative to evolution, no
scientist will accept evolution...but religion doesn't offer any
evidence at all for their beliefs, which is what dogma is.
Posted by shoeblayo (3 comments )
Link Flag
And stupid ideas (i.e., I.E.) are given the weight they deserve
That is, zero.

If Jesus popped out of heaven, scientists would jump on the
Christian bandwagon. There would finally be some evidence worth
appreciating.

But your whole "evolution is just...." is BS that you've swallowed
whole.
Posted by Mark Greene (163 comments )
Link Flag
evidence my dear lad, don't discount the evidence
I don't think science is close minded on the evolution theory. Simply put, with the overwealming impirical evidence supporting this (as all theories are) unproven hypothisis has not had an equal or even possibly equal challenger.

Anyone may offer a different theory to how life develops but it is there obligation to provide impirical evidance of the theory. Science is not "I think this so it's right". Science is "this may be right until something better supported comes along".

Your argument is that Evolution is now the defacto because "everybody knows that" and science is closed to any alternatives. That's the very definition of theocracy not science. "We belive this so this is right and we'll have no talk of other ideas on the matter." Blatant theocracy and the antithisis of scientific thought. Wasn't it the scientists who where tourchered, imprisoned and murdered for daring to find impirical evidence conflict with the church (not religion, the human administered fan club). And now your saying Science is closing it's eyes and ex-communicating anyone who does not wave the common flag?

Science would be very open to any publications that qualify to some basic principles; it must be supported by impirical evidence, it must be submitted, it must stand up to pear review and must not argue something that has been disproven unless it includes new impirical evidence rather than unproven opinion.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
2,000 year old fairytales and stupid Americans
Yes, I'm one of you.

And I'm ashamed.

If you can't see how evolution makes sense, you're intellectually
hopeless. (That means stupid.)
Posted by Mark Greene (163 comments )
Reply Link Flag
you people are ******* retards. get off your ass, go to college, and take some courses on evolution! and don't just sit there! read papers, do research, ask questions, ******* inform yourself! i'm sick and tired of hearing from the uninformed masses. SHUT UP and let the people who know what they're talking about take charge. we didn't get to where we are today by staring slack-jawed and drooling over a bible. we're educated people who worked our ***** off exploring and learning about what the rest of you can't be bothered to look at with even an ounce of curiosity. so like i said, SHUT UP or **** OFF
Posted by yumecology (1 comment )
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