Biologists have figured out why ‘selfish’ genes that kill the body are so successful

(ORDO NEWS) — In DNA, there are not only “good” parts, but also “bad” ones. Such is, for example, a site with a dangerous “selfish” gene.

It codes for a protein capable of killing the organism. Scientists have understood how a gene functions and survives.

The researchers studied how the “selfish” yeast gene uses a “poison-antidote” strategy that contributes to its long-term evolutionary success. Understanding this may one day lead to the eradication of pest populations.

Previous research has shown that the “selfish” yeast gene, wtf4, produces a poisonous protein capable of destroying all offspring.

Now, scientists have discovered that wtf4’s timing difference between poison and inactivation proteins and their unique distribution patterns are fundamental to the “life” of “selfish” genes.

The team developed a model to find out how the poison kills spores in yeast. It turns out that poisonous proteins clump together, potentially destroying the structure of other proteins essential for the cell to function.

However, the wtf4 gene encodes both a venom and an antidote, and the latter has an additional part that isolates the venom-antidote clusters, delivering them to the vacuole.

The team also found that a specific molecular switch that controls many other genes involved in spore formation regulates the expression of the venom, but not the antidote from the wtf4 gene. This helps explain why this “selfish” gene is so successful at surviving.


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