Findings of a new research that analyzed the genomes of humans, flies and worms may change the perception of those who look down on worms and flies as lowly animals. Researchers of the study found that the genomes of these three seemingly very different species actually share a lot in common indicating a shared ancestry.
For the study published in the journal Nature on Aug. 28, Mark Gerstein, from Yale University's Program in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, and colleagues looked at more than 67 billion gene sequences to analyze the gene expression patterns that are common among humans, flies and worms.
The researchers found that the three species share a lot of gene expression patterns, many of which were for developmental genes. They also found that how the DNA is packaged in the nucleus of the cell, the mechanism for switching the genes on and off, as well as the gene expression levels for protein and non-protein coding genes were similar among the three species.
"We discover co-expression modules shared across animals, many of which are enriched in developmental genes," the researchers wrote. "We find that the extent of non-canonical, non-coding transcription is similar in each organism, per base pair. Finally, we find in all three organisms that the gene-expression levels, both coding and non-coding, can be quantitatively predicted from chromatin features."
The similarities shared by the three seemingly distant species reflect their shared ancestry as well as provide insights on biological processes that are crucial for understanding human biology and diseases.
"The special thing about the worm and fly is that they are very distant from humans evolutionarily, so finding something conserved across all three - human, fly and worm - tells us it is a very ancient, fundamental process," Gerstein said.
The researchers pointed out the significance of their findings saying that their discovery could help in the development of new drugs. Fruit flies and humans may be two very different species but more than half of the genes that are linked with human cancer and genetic diseases can be found on the genomes of the fly.
Because the genomes of humans, worms and flies have similar processes, those processes in worms and flies can also be used to screen micronutrients and drugs for their effect on the same processes in the human genomes.
"These findings give us a map of highly important regions of the genome that will guide the scientific community in future research projects related to cell biology and, in extension, to disease", said study author Sarah Djebali, from the Center for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain.