Sunday, January 16, 2022

Evidence of Purposeful Evolution

Darwin's evolution challenged!

A recently published article in Nautre challenged evolution theory suggesting DNA repair was the more likely candidate driving evolutionary development than the environmental conditions thought to be the driver of natural selection. In some sense the two may be linked, but this study showed how epigenome-associated mutation bias reduced the occurrence of deleterious mutations, challenging the prevailing paradigm that mutation is a directionless force in evolution.

Quantitative assessment of DNA gain and loss through DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair processes suggests deletion-biased DSB repair causes ongoing genome shrinking in A. thaliana, whereas genome size in barley remained nearly constant.

Introduction of as little as 0.7% sequence divergence between Alu elements resulted in a significant reduction in recombination, which indicates even small degrees of sequence divergence reduce the efficiency of homology-directed DSB repair. Alu elements are the most abundant transposable elements (capable of shifting their positions) containing over one million copies dispersed throughout the human genome.

The emergence of recombination-activating genes (RAGs) in jawed vertebrates endowed adaptive immune cells with the ability to assemble a diverse set of antigen receptor genes. Innate Natural Killer (NK) cells are unable to express RAGs or RAG endonuclease activity during ontogeny. They exhibit a cell-intrinsic hyperresponsiveness, but a diminished capacity to survive following virus-driven proliferation, a reduced expression of DNA damage response mediators, and defects in the repair of DNA breaks. However, RAG expression in uncommitted hematopoietic progenitors and NK cell precursors marks functionally distinct subsets of NK cells in the periphery, demonstrating a novel role for RAG in the functional specialization of the NK cell lineage. 

The most active region of Human Chromosome 19 has a long history of recombinations that define the expression patterns of telomeric and centromeric proportions of Killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) gene's encoding receptors. KIR's bind cells presenting MHC class 1 HLA haplotype combinations, that vary significantly across tissues in different population groups. Further, the deletion rate in Zinc Finger clusters (ZNF) located around 19q13.42, near KIR and C19MC between 51,012,739 and 55,620,741 are about twofold higher than the background deletion rate. 

The relationship between deletions and mutation may indeed play a direct role in rapidly evolving, innate immunity. This may just begin to explain the speed at which global populations can respond and survive pandemics caused by the likes of COVID-19. And, the '19' in its nomenclature may go beyond time to the very chromosome responsible for innate immune diversity.