The 1001 Genomes project has reached the conclusion that adaptation through mutation is a rarity compared to genetic modification of existing gene makeup and gene function in survival of plants and most probably all species.
The subject plant – the thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana – was chosen because of the plants wide distribution across climates. The pant is known in Northern Africa, in near Arctic parts of Europe, and as fart as China.
The researchers compared the geneomes of 100 different strains and discovered that “thousands of proteins differ in their structure and function in the different Arabidopsis strains. In addition, they found several thousand cases of extra copies of genes, gene loss, as well as new genes that were previously only found in other plant species.”
The researchers conclude that “Adaptation through new mutations is very rare. More important is the recombination of already existing variants. With the information from more than a hundred genomes, not only can we make statements about these hundred individuals, but have thus laid the foundations to predict the genetic potential which could be realized by crossing particular individuals.”
Genetic engineers involved with the project blended the genetic information of 19 species of Arabidopsis thaliana mechanically and manipulated the sequence of genes in the resultant DNA. They foundthat mutations were an exception to survival expedience. The mixture represents hundreds of possibilities of variants of the Arabidopsis thaliana genome.
These discoveries do not trump Darwin’s basic assumptions but do express a predominance of gene variation and function over mutation as a factor in survival of the fittest.
Cao, J., Schneeberger, K., Ossowski, S., Günther, T., Bender, S., Fitz, J., Koenig, D., Lanz, C., Stegle, O., Lippert, C., Wang, X., Ott, F., Müller, J., Alonso-Blanco, C., Borgwardt, K., Schmid, K. J., and Weigel, D. (2011) Whole-genome sequencing of multiple Arabidopsis thaliana populations. Nature Genetics, doi: 10.1038/ng.911
Gan X., Stegle O., Behr J., Steffen J.G., Drewe P., Hildebrand K.L., Lyngsoe R., Schultheiss S.J., Osborne E.J., Sreedharan V.T., Kahles A., Bohnert R., Jean G., Derwent P., Kersey P., Belfield E.J., Harberd N.P., Kemen E., Toomajian C., Kover P.X., Clark R.M., Rätsch G., Mott R. (2011) Multiple reference genomes and transcriptomes for Arabidopsis thaliana. Nature, doi: 10.1038/nature10414.
Schneeberger, K., Ossowski, S., Ott, F., Klein, J. D., Wang, X., Lanz, C., Smith, L. M., Cao, J., Fitz, J., Warthmann, N., Henz, S. R., Huson, D. H., and Weigel, D. (2011) Reference-guided assembly of four diverse Arabidopsis thaliana genomes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA 108, 10249-10254, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1107739108.
The research was summarized in an article at the Eureka Alert web site on August 28, 2011.