Gene tweak led to humans’ big toe | Science News

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Gene tweak led to humans’ big toe

Decrease in bone-building protein helped enable upright walking

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12:00pm, January 7, 2016
mouse embryo

TRUE BLUE The blue coloring in this mouse embryo shows that a genetic switch that controls production of a bone- and tissue-building protein turns on genes in the lower half of the embryo’s body. 

Small tweaks of one gene may have helped humans to walk upright.

Losing a genetic switch that increases production of a protein called GDF6 may have created the big toe and helped shape the human foot for bipedalism, scientists propose in a paper published online January 7 in Cell. “This change is one that makes all humans different from other animals,” says developmental geneticist David Kingsley, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Stanford University.

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