Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


Breakthrough in hybrid species science

Friday, March 7, 2014
Breakthrough in hybrid species science

Massey University scientists have discovered a universal law that explains how hybrid species survive and thrive.

Computational biologist Professor Murray Cox and molecular biologist Dr Austen Ganley led the research that analysed what happens when a new species is formed. Their findings were published today in the Public Library of Science online journal, Genetics.

“When two very different species suddenly merge together, a new species is created instantaneously that contains two different sets of machinery, or RNA (Ribonucleic acid) as it’s known,” Professor Cox says. “Some parts of this machinery won’t work together, so we asked the question, how does this hybrid survive?”

Professor Cox says hybrids are surprisingly common and can be seen in the cotton used to make bed-sheets, the wheat in bread and in New Zealand alpine plants.

His team used advanced computational biology methods to sequence and analyse hundreds of millions of RNA copies of a fungus found in grass. “This particularly fungus [epichloe endophyte] is one of the good guys," he says. "The plant gives the fungus a place to live, and the fungus produces chemicals that kill insects that try to eat the grass. This hidden relationship is a key reason for the success of New Zealand’s multibillion dollar dairy industry.”

Professor Cox was amazed to find that the RNA levels in the grass fungus were almost identical to the patterns found in cotton – the only other hybrid species that has undergone similar analysis.

“These species are radically different, for starters, one is a plant, the other is a fungus,” he says. “Therefore we realised we had identified universal rules that dictate how gene expression has to behave in order for hybrid species to control their two sets of machinery [RNA], regardless of what exact species those hybrids are."

These genetic rules revealed that the hybrid’s genes mimic one parent or the other. “The RNA levels showed one copy effectively gets turned off. It’s not simply an average of what its parents have. This pattern occurs in both fungi and plants — in other words, there are universal rules that control gene expression levels in hybrids across the tree of life.”

It is this final point that has generated the greatest interest in the scientific community and earned Professor Cox’s research a place in the PLOS Genetics publication.


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


DIY: Kiwi Ingenuity And Masking Tape Saves Chick

Kiwi ingenuity and masking tape has saved a Kiwi chick after its egg was badly damaged endangering the chick's life. The egg was delivered to Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs in Rotorua 14 days ago by a DOC worker with a large hole in its shell and against all odds has just successfully hatched. More>>


Trade: Key To Lead Mission To India; ASEAN FTA Review Announced

Prime Minister John Key will lead a trade delegation to India next week, saying the pursuit of a free trade agreement with the protectionist giant is "the primary reason we're going" but playing down the likelihood of early progress. More>>



MYOB: Digital Signatures Go Live

From today, Inland Revenue will begin accepting “digital signatures”, saving businesses and their accountants a huge amount of administration time and further reducing the need for pen and paper in the workplace. More>>

Oil Searches: Norway's Statoil Quits Reinga Basin

Statoil, the Norwegian state-owned oil company, has given up oil and gas exploration in Northland's Reinga Basin, saying the probably of a find was 'too low'. More>>


Modern Living: Auckland Development Blowouts Reminiscent Of Run Up To GFC

The collapse of property developments in Auckland is "almost groundhog day" to the run-up of the global financial crisis in 2007/2008 as banks refuse to fund projects due to blowouts in construction and labour costs, says John Kensington, the author of KPMG's Financial Institutions Performance Survey. More>>


Health: New Zealand's First ‘No Sugary Drinks’ Logo Unveiled

New Zealand’s first “no sugary drinks logo” has been unveiled at an event in Wellington... It will empower communities around New Zealand to lift their health and wellbeing and send a clear message about the damage caused by too much sugar in our diets. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news