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How Mutation & Gene Regulation Impact Developmental Genes

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  • 0:02 Developmental Genes
  • 0:59 Gene Regulation
  • 2:17 New Sets of Genes
  • 3:55 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Your genes determine who you are, especially during development. Both developmental gene mutation and gene expression play important roles in how an individual ends up as an adult, as well as in the creation of new species.

Developmental Genes

Have you ever read a choose your own adventure story? These are really fun books where at various times, you, the reader, get to decide which storyline? to take next. At these points, the book will give you a few options and base on which one you pick, your story will lead you to different endings. Developmental genes are a lot like these books because even very small changes along the way can lead to markedly different results in the end.

Developmental genes are the genes that control the rate, timing, and pattern of changes in an organism and they are the genes that often lead to major morphological differences between species. Some species have legs, others have wings, and still others have hair or feathers. Many of these differences come about because certain genes are turned on or off, as well as through mutations that lead to new genes all together.

In this lesson, we'll learn how both gene regulation and new genes effect development.

Gene Regulation

Ready to start on our adventure? Gene regulation refers to the regulation of gene expression. Basically, which genes are turned on or off at any given time. Amazingly, most of our cells have the same set of genes but only turn on a scant few that are necessary for that specific cell type. As you can imagine, messing with this important on off switch can seriously effect how developmental genes are expressed or if they are even expressed at all.

Take for example the threespine stickleback fish; this fish lives in both ocean and lake waters in North America. The ocean stickleback fish have boney plates that serve as body armor as well as pelvic spines that protect them from predators. However, the stickleback fish that lives in lakes have little to no body armor and do not have the pelvic spines.

It turns out that the regulation of a developmental gene influences the formation of the spines. The loss of such a protective body part was due to natural selection.

Fresh water dragonfly larva prey on young sticklebacks by grabbing on to their spines. Both ocean and freshwater threespine sticklebacks have the exact same gene to produce the spines but it is turned off in the pelvic region of the lake fish and turned on in the pelvic region of the ocean fish.

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