University of California and Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology scientists have said that a simple roadside weed hold the key to understanding and predicting DNA mutation.
The study was published in the journal Nature. This study can change our understanding of evolution. It can also help scientists breed better crops. It can also help humans fight cancer.
Mutations happens when DNA is damaged and left unrepaired. Scientists tried to find out if mutation was purely random or something deeper.
Scientists have spent three years sequencing the DNA of hundreds of Arabidopsis thaliana. This is a small and flowering weed. It has small genome comprising around 120 million base pairs.
Lab-grown plants yield many variations
Scientists grew specimens in a protected lab environment. This allowed plants with defects which may not have survived in nature to survive in a controlled space.
Hundreds of Arabidopsis thaliana plants revealed more than 1 million mutations. Scientists have seen mutations a nonrandom pattern.
Scientists found patches of the genome with low mutation rates. In those patches, they discovered an over-representation of essential genes. Like those involved in cell growth and gene expression.
Plant evolved to protect itself
Researchers found the way DNA was wrapped around various types of proteins was a good predictor if a gene would mutate or not.
This study adds a surprising twist to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. The study revealed that the plant has evolved to protect its genes from mutation to ensure survival.
Scientists got to know why some regions of the genome mutate more than others. This will help breeders who rely on genetic variation to develop better crops. Scientists also can now better predict or develop new treatments for diseases like cancer.