Biotech Updates

A Gain-of-Function Polymorphism Controlling Complex Traits and Fitness in Nature

October 10, 2012

Duke University scientists reported in journal Science that a small family of genes regulates not just the spiciness of mustard but also their chance of survival. Thomas Mitchell-Olds and team investigated the such polymorphisms in nature as affected by evolutionary processes. Thus, they cloned the complex traits that control wild mustard's defense mechanism, damage by insects, survival, and reproduction  and placed the plants in two areas (mountaintop in Montana and valley in Colorado) where these characteristics have evolved.

The team found out that the plants produced different sets of enzymes depending on where the characteristics have evolved.  When the plants with the version of the enzyme normally found in Colorado were placed in Montana, the plants were attacked by insects and struggled to survive. This behavior was also observed when Montana plants were planted in Colorado. Based on the results, the researchers concluded that different responses to diverse biotic interactions in the context of selection by herbivores likely influence the genetic diversity of wild mustard plants.

Read the research article at