Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

What do nematodes and humans have in common?

Orthologs are genes present in different species that evolved from a common ancestor. While studies have shown the existence of orthologous genes and proteins in C elegans that are associated with diseases in humans, a new study published in Physiological Genomics examined this question as it relates to reproduction.

In the new study, researchers identified a whopping 504 genes in C elegans that have yet to be associated with reproduction in humans whereas 30 human genes associated with reproduction were not yet characterized in the nematodes. Of the human genes, the researchers identified 10 that were associated with reproductive diseases in humans such as sexual dysfunction, pre-eclampsia, endometriosis, male infertility, premature birth, among others. Further analyses of the genes from C elegans identified 12 that were associated with human reproductive diseases including premature birth and labor, spontaneous abortion, pre-eclampsia, menopause, infections during pregnancy, sperm production, and so on.

The identification of more genes related to reproduction in C elegans than in humans may be attributed simply to a greater understanding of reproduction in these nematodes. What these genome studies provide is information for researchers to explore the role (or lack thereof) of some of these novel genes in human reproduction.


Kim Y, Park Y, Hwang J, Kwack K. Comparative genomic analysis of the human and nematode Caenorhabditis elegans uncovers potential reproductive genes and disease associations in humans. Physiological Genomics. 50(11): 1002-1014, 2018. doi: 10.1152/physiolgenomics.00063.2018

Categories: Nature's Solutions, Reproduction and Development

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