ScienceDaily: How do genes get new jobs? Wasp venom offers new insights

ScienceDaily: How do genes get new jobs? Wasp venom offers new insights. Adaptions require new or changed functions of genes. One way this could happen is for a gene to be copied and the copy taking on a new function.

However, by studying tiny parasitic Jewel Wasps and their rapidly changing venom repertoires, the Werren Lab at the University of Rochester has uncovered a different process that may be widespread in other species as well.

The process involves co-opting single copy genes to take on new functions. In some cases, these genes appear to continue their previous function as well, in other parts of the wasp’s anatomy besides the venom gland.

“It is almost as if they are now moonlighting,” says John (Jack) Werren, professor of biology. “They’ve got a day job, and then take on a night job as well. Over time, if the night job works out, they may give up the day job and evolve as a venom specialist. However, in other cases we have found that they stop moonlighting as venom genes but appear to retain their day job.”

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