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Human Sperm Gene Is 600 Million Years Old

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Just as styles in sexy clothes or fashion change from year to year and culture to culture, "sexy" genes, or genes specific to sex, also change rapidly. But there is one sex-specific gene so vital, its function has remained unaltered throughout evolution and is found in almost all animals, according to new research from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The gene, called Boule, is responsible for sperm production. Northwestern scientists also discovered in their research that Boule appears to be the only gene known to be exclusively required for sperm production from an insect to a mammal.

"This is the first clear evidence that suggests our ability to produce sperm is very ancient, probably originating at the dawn of animal evolution 600 million years ago," said Eugene Xu, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Feinberg. "This finding suggests that all animal sperm production likely comes from a common prototype."

Xu is senior author of a paper on the study that will be published July 15 in PLoS Genetics.

The discovery of Boule's key role in perpetuating animal species offers a better understanding of male infertility, a potential target for a male contraceptive drug and a new direction for future development of pesticides or medicine against infectious parasites or carriers of germs.

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TAGGED: BIOLOGY, EVOLUTION, MEDICINE


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