Evolution of DNA Replication Timing
Although humans and our closest primate relatives—chimpanzees for example—are approximately 99 percent identical at the genetic level, there are many differing traits, such as cognitive abilities, language, and upright posture.
Amnon Koren, Molecular Biology and Genetics, is exploring one genetic mechanism that could help explain these differences: variation in the timing of DNA replication. DNA is replicated according to a defined temporal order referred to as the DNA replication timing program. DNA replication timing interfaces with gene regulation and influences mutation rates and patterns. As a result, it holds the potential of affecting evolution in non-trivial ways.
Currently, very little is known about how DNA replication timing has evolved. Koren is measuring DNA replication timing across the genomes of nearly 100 humans and chimpanzees, as well as other great apes. He is using whole-genome DNA sequencing. He is utilizing generated replication timing data to identify differences, reconstruct their evolutionary patterns and genetic basis, and link DNA replication variation to mutation rates, gene expression, and possibly, the evolution of new traits.