Snakes and lizards are reptiles that belong to the order Squamata. They share several traits but differ in one obvious respect: Snakes do not have limbs. The two suborders diverged more than 100 million years ago. Identification of the genetic factors involved in this loss of limbs is a focus of an article titled "Phenotype loss is associated with widespread divergence of the gene regulatory landscape in evolution," published by Juliana Gusson Roscito and collaborators in Nature Communications.
Another equally interesting focus of the article is eye degeneration in certain subterranean mammals. "We investigated these two cases in order to understand a much more general process, which is how genome changes during evolution lead to phenotype changes," Roscito said.
Currently working as a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, Roscito's postdoctoral scholarship was linked to the thematic project "Comparative phylogeography, phylogeny, paleoclimate modeling and taxonomy of neotropical reptiles and amphibians," for which Miguel Trefaut Urbano Rodrigues is the principal investigator. Rodrigues is a professor at the University of São Paulo's Bioscience Institute (IB-USP) in Brazil and supervised Roscito's postdoctoral research. He is also a coauthor of the recently published article.
"The research consisted of an investigation of the genomes of several species of vertebrates, including the identification of genomic regions that changed only in snakes or subterranean mammals, while remaining unchanged in other species that have not lost their limbs or have normal eyes," Roscito said.
by José Tadeu Arantes, FAPESP