Turning a vole into a mighty rodent

March 05, 2015

Take a wild, common forest-dwelling mouse-like rodent, known as a vole, and subject it to 13 rounds of selection for increased aerobic exercise metabolism, and what do you get? A mighty "mouse" with a 48 percent higher peak rate of oxygen consumption and an increased basal metabolic rate, compared to unselected controls.

In a new study appearing in the advanced online edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution, authors Konczal et al. took advantage of an experimental evolution technique that has gained popularity, dubbed "evolve and resequence," to measure the genetic changes that pushed the humble vole to Olympian levels of performance. Overall, the changes within genes, as measured by differences in single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), were not dramatic. Rather, the dominating adaptive response to this selection was in changed gene expression levels found in the heart (79 genes) and liver (278 genes) when compared to control voles.

A set of candidate genes that mobilize sugars and fats from body reserves were identified (glycogen phosphorylase and de-branching enzymes), along with those involved in stress responses and epigenetic changes.

"Although some candidate genes points to enzymes with a changed structure, the results show that remarkable evolution of physiological performance can occur by regulatory changes within basically the same biochemical machinery, rather than by changing the structure of enzymes, which are components of that machinery," said Konczal.

Molecular Biology and Evolution (Oxford University Press)

Related Evolution Articles from Brightsurf:

Seeing evolution happening before your eyes
Researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg established an automated pipeline to create mutations in genomic enhancers that let them watch evolution unfold before their eyes.

A timeline on the evolution of reptiles
A statistical analysis of that vast database is helping scientists better understand the evolution of these cold-blooded vertebrates by contradicting a widely held theory that major transitions in evolution always happened in big, quick (geologically speaking) bursts, triggered by major environmental shifts.

Looking at evolution's genealogy from home
Evolution leaves its traces in particular in genomes. A team headed by Dr.

How boundaries become bridges in evolution
The mechanisms that make organisms locally fit and those responsible for change are distinct and occur sequentially in evolution.

Genome evolution goes digital
Dr. Alan Herbert from InsideOutBio describes ground-breaking research in a paper published online by Royal Society Open Science.

Paleontology: Experiments in evolution
A new find from Patagonia sheds light on the evolution of large predatory dinosaurs.

A window into evolution
The C4 cycle supercharges photosynthesis and evolved independently more than 62 times.

Is evolution predictable?
An international team of scientists working with Heliconius butterflies at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama was faced with a mystery: how do pairs of unrelated butterflies from Peru to Costa Rica evolve nearly the same wing-color patterns over and over again?

Predicting evolution
A new method of 're-barcoding' DNA allows scientists to track rapid evolution in yeast.

Insect evolution: Insect evolution
Scientists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have shown that the incidence of midge and fly larvae in amber is far higher than previously thought.

Read More: Evolution News and Evolution Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.