PerspectiveGenetics

Decoding the evolution of species

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Science  02 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6341, pp. 904-905
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan5199

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Summary

In the middle of the 20th century, researchers identified DNA and proteins and began to understand how they shape organisms. At first, scientists assumed that differences in protein sequence, structure, and function uniquely define any animal, including humans. Yet these building blocks are extraordinarily similar among animals, and human proteins can substitute for their counterparts in far simpler species (13). The modern dogma is that differences between species are largely a result of mutations in the noncoding instructions that determine when, where, and how much of a gene is expressed. On page 921 of this issue, Burga et al. (4) show that scientists may have underestimated the contribution of protein-coding mutations to evolution.