May 24, 2017 | Updated: 05:38 PM EDT

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Carnivorous Plant Retains Genetic Gems

May 17, 2017 11:39 AM EDT

Carnivorous bladderwort
(Photo : YouTube.com/franchiseefilms) Experts identify the specific genomic traits that make the carnivorous bladderwort an aggressive trapper and hunter.

You've heard of the carnivorous humped bladderwort plant, Utricularia gibba. This one is a suave predator that uses vacuum pressure to draw in its prey. It sets up small traps at super speeds - less than a millisecond!

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Scientists used genomic analysis to discover that this smooth operator has retained as well as expanded genetic material related to its carnivorous traits. Such characteristics included genes that enabled it to trap its prey, digest proteins, and even shift tiny bits of protein from cell to cell. The pressure to delete the DNA, according to Science Daily, has been tremendous.

"What's exciting is that we didn't go in and cherry pick these genes," says Victor Albert, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences at the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. "We used bioinformatics to identify genes that were preserved and enriched in the species, and when we did that, these genes related to a carnivorous lifestyle were the ones that stood out."

Research shows that the bladderwort houses more genes than other well-known plant species, such as grape, coffee or papaya. And this is in spite of possessing a much smaller genome, according to Buffalo.edu.

And recently, more of the "genetic signatures" of the carnivorous plant were uncovered, explains Stephan C. Schuster, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Experts used a sequencing technique that chose a single-molecule method that had been created by Pacific Biosciences (PacBio). It was a technology that read diverse sections of DNA in the genome. It then harnessed certain "specialized software combines" to create bigger chains.

The PacBio method was used by the scientists to create a better genome. The experts generated individual strings of bladderwort DNA and made them over 40 times longer. It was a novel high-quality sequence that made the experts examine the bladderwort genome in diverse ways.

Hence, they could locate specific strings of gene copies called tandem repeats, which are bits of genetic material "accidentally duplicated" near each other. These kinds of repeated genes tend to get lost through evolution. Hence, those that are retained tend to have an "evolutionary advantage."


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