Seminar by Victor Luria – University of Copenhagen

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Seminar by Victor Luria

Novel, human- and primate-specific genes appear de novo, enable structural innovation and function in the human brain

Victor Luria (research fellow at Harvard Medical School, Department of Systems Biology)

Where do genes come from? While many new genes appear by duplication, entirely novel genes were recently discovered. These novel, taxon-restricted, genes arise de novo from intergenic DNA, or from long non-coding RNAs. Our initial studies of a taxon-restricted gene showed that novel genes can integrate into existing genetic circuits, can induce gene activity oscillations and function in neurons and skin. To understand more generally how many novel genes arise, what proteins they make and what they do, we set out to determine their general properties using mathematical modeling, computational biophysics and experiments. We found that many novel genes may arise and encode proteins with distinct structural properties, and that they function in the brains of zebrafish and humans. Currently we are focusing on how novel human- and primate- specific genes generate phenotypic variation in neurons and enable evolutionary innovation in primate brains.