People and chimpanzees are almost identical when it comes to their DNA sequences, a sure sign of close evolutionary ties. A new study suggests that the distinctive looks and thinking styles of these two primate groups derive from the contrasting productivities of their similar DNA sequences.
The same genes that unleash a cascade of messenger molecules and proteins in human brain tissue yield a relatively modest flow of the same substances in chimp brains, says geneticist Svante Paäbo of the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
During the evolution of Homo sapiens, the brain probably experienced accelerated changes to accommodate so great a surge of genetic products, Paäbo and his colleagues assert. Their study appears in the April 12 Science.
The scientists examined the responses of white blood cells and liver and brain tissue to individual DNA sequences isolated from nearly 18,000 human genes.
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