Topic: Molecular Biology
Evolution is change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the expressions of genes that are passed on from parent to offspring during reproduction. Different characteristics tend to exist within any given population as a result of mutation, genetic recombination and other sources of genetic variation. Evolution occurs when evolutionary processes such as natural selection (including sexual selection) and genetic drift act on this variation, resulting in certain characteristics becoming more common or rare within a population. The evolutionary pressures that determine whether a characteristic would be common or rare within a population constantly change, resulting in a change in heritable characteristics arising over successive generations. It is this process of evolution that has given rise to biodiversity at every level of biological organisation, including the levels of species, individual organisms and molecules.
The theory of evolution by natural selection was conceived independently by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in the mid-19th century and was set out in detail in Darwin's book On the Origin of Species. Evolution by natural selection was first demonstrated by the observation that more offspring are often produced than can possibly survive. This is followed by three observable facts about living organisms: (1) traits vary among individuals with respect to their morphology, physiology and behaviour (phenotypic variation), (2) different traits confer different rates of survival and reproduction (differential fitness) and (3) traits can be passed from generation to generation (heritability of fitness). Thus, in successive generations members of a population are more likely to be replaced by the progenies of parents with favourable characteristics that have enabled them to survive and reproduce in their respective environments. In the early 20th century, other competing ideas of evolution such as mutationism and orthogenesis were refuted as the modern synthesis reconciled Darwinian evolution with classical genetics, which established adaptive evolution as being caused by natural selection acting on Mendelian genetic variation.
All life on Earth shares a last universal common ancestor (LUCA) that lived approximately 3.5–3.8 billion years ago. The fossil record includes a progression from early biogenic graphite, to microbial mat fossils, to fossilised multicellular organisms. Existing patterns of biodiversity have been shaped by repeated formations of new species (speciation), changes within species (anagenesis) and loss of species (extinction) throughout the evolutionary history of life on Earth. Morphological and biochemical traits are more similar among species that share a more recent common ancestor, and can be used to reconstruct phylogenetic trees.
Evolutionary biologists have continued to study various aspects of evolution by forming and testing hypotheses as well as constructing theories based on evidence from the field or laboratory and on data generated by the methods of mathematical and theoretical biology. Their discoveries have influenced not just the development of biology but numerous other scientific and industrial fields, including agriculture, medicine, and computer science.
- "Wikipedia tests a new UI design" | 2022-08-26 | 11 Upvotes 3 Comments
The Burrows–Wheeler transform (BWT, also called block-sorting compression) rearranges a character string into runs of similar characters. This is useful for compression, since it tends to be easy to compress a string that has runs of repeated characters by techniques such as move-to-front transform and run-length encoding. More importantly, the transformation is reversible, without needing to store any additional data except the position of the first original character. The BWT is thus a "free" method of improving the efficiency of text compression algorithms, costing only some extra computation. The Burrows–Wheeler transform is an algorithm used to prepare data for use with data compression techniques such as bzip2. It was invented by Michael Burrows and David Wheeler in 1994 while Burrows was working at DEC Systems Research Center in Palo Alto, California. It is based on a previously unpublished transformation discovered by Wheeler in 1983. The algorithm can be implemented efficiently using a suffix array thus reaching linear time complexity.
- "Burrows–Wheeler Transform" | 2022-09-21 | 162 Upvotes 56 Comments
Peto's paradox is an observation that at the species level, the incidence of cancer does not appear to correlate with the number of cells in an organism. For example, the incidence of cancer in humans is much higher than the incidence of cancer in whales, despite whales having more cells than humans. If the probability of carcinogenesis were constant across cells, one would expect whales to have a higher incidence of cancer than humans. Peto's paradox is named after English statistician and epidemiologist Richard Peto, who first observed the connection.
- "Peto's Paradox" | 2022-11-05 | 142 Upvotes 68 Comments
Sonic hedgehog protein (SHH) is encoded for by the SHH gene. The protein is named after the character Sonic the Hedgehog.
This signaling molecule is key in regulating embryonic morphogenesis in all animals. SHH controls organogenesis and the organization of the central nervous system, limbs, digits and many other parts of the body. Sonic hedgehog is a morphogen that patterns the developing embryo using a concentration gradient characterized by the French flag model. This model has a non-uniform distribution of SHH molecules which governs different cell fates according to concentration. Mutations in this gene can cause holoprosencephaly, a failure of splitting in the cerebral hemispheres, as demonstrated in an experiment using SHH knock-out mice in which the forebrain midline failed to develop and instead only a single fused telencephalic vesicle resulted.
Sonic hedgehog still plays a role in differentiation, proliferation, and maintenance of adult tissues. Abnormal activation of SHH signaling in adult tissues has been implicated in various types of cancers including breast, skin, brain, liver, gallbladder and many more.
- "Sonic Hedgehog Protein (encoded by the SHH gene)" | 2023-01-26 | 58 Upvotes 43 Comments
Miraculin is a taste modifier, a glycoprotein extracted from the fruit of Synsepalum dulcificum. The berry, also known as the miracle fruit, was documented by explorer Chevalier des Marchais, who searched for many different fruits during a 1725 excursion to its native West Africa.
Miraculin itself does not taste sweet. When taste buds are exposed to miraculin, the protein binds to the sweetness receptors. This causes normally sour-tasting acidic foods, such as citrus, to be perceived as sweet. The effect can last for one or two hours.
- "Miraculin" | 2023-05-06 | 13 Upvotes 5 Comments