University of Wyoming scientists help spearhead genome research

2010-12-13T00:00:00Z University of Wyoming scientists help spearhead genome researchBy JOAN BARRON - Star-Tribune capital bureau Casper Star-Tribune Online

CHEYENNE -- University of Wyoming researchers are members of a team that has sequenced the entire genome of an organism that is seen as a model for understanding rapid evolution.

The organism studied is a tunicate found mainly on the ocean floor.

Commonly known as seat squirts and sea pork, tunicates apparently evolved in the early Cambrian period, beginning around 540 million years ago, according to a university media release.

The article, "Plasticity of animal genome architecture unmasked by rapid evolution of pelagic tunicate," was published last month in the journal Science Express.

The entire genome sequence of Oikopleura dioca, a tunicate, was determined. The genome sequencing project was an international collaborative effort involving research groups in Europe, Canada and Japan along with UW, the universities of Iowa and Oregon and the National Institutes of Health.

"The genome is extremely divergent from other multicellular animal genomes, showing hallmarks of rapid evolution," said David Liberles, associate professor in the UW Department of Molecular Biology.

The researchers at UW analyzed the evolutionary turnover of duplicate genes in this organism, which Liberles said is "among the contributing factors to the rapid divergence of the genome. It is seen as the main mechanism by which genes can change functions."

Snehalata Huzurbazar, associate professor in the Department of Statistics, added that the contribution of the UW researchers was also important because "statistical analysis of the duplicate gene data accounting for data-generating mechanisms is new in this research area. Statisticians are infrequently co-authors on articles in Science."

Other UW scientists contributing to the research were Ph.D. students Anke Konrad, molecular biology, and Sarabdeep Singh, statistics.

Although the UW scientists were not specifically studying cancer, the evolutionary change in the organism as the genome changes seems to be similar to the mechanism used by cancer cells as they adapt to life in a tumor, Liberles said.

"It is an important part of the process, in addition to other types of mutations that drive tumor formation," he said.

Liberles said computation models are increasingly being used to explain the mechanisms by which functions change as the gene sequences change.

Also increasingly, mathematical molecular biology is used to understand the underlying mechanisms of processes so scientists learn something about biological mechanisms as well.

"I think this will be important to medicine as well as to basic biology," he added.

The interdisciplinary approach that links mathematical modeling to biological mechanisms "can yield great advances not only in understanding basic biology but bio-medicine and numerous diseases, from cancer to infectious diseases, as well, Liberles said.

Contact capital bureau Joan Barron at 307-632-1244 or

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Untitled Document

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps...

  1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

  2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

  3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

  4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

  5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. It would be better to write the editor at, or call Editor Jason Adrians at 266-0545 or Content Director David Mayberry at 266-0633. This is a forum for community discussion, not for media criticism. We'd rather address your concerns directly.

  6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.

  7. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

  8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Featured Businesses

Latest Offers