Dr. Hollie Putnam, a National Science Foundation Ocean Sciences Post-Doctoral Fellow, is researching the mechanisms that corals use to respond to altered ocean conditions. Her work in the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa is revealing that some coral are responding to climate change by changing markings on their DNA to modify what the DNA produces. Like punctuation marks in an alphabet, this changes the result (proteins made) without altering the original letters (the DNA). Although this is a known phenomenon in many organisms, how coral use this to their advantage is largely a mystery.
The cauliflower coral, which was vulnerable to acidification, showed an increase in DNA methylation. This ability to regulate what the DNA produces may be a mechanism by which this species responds to environmental perturbations. While it might appear that this tactic of modifying DNA markers leads to environmental susceptibility, Putnam explains that the process is much more complex. More.
We bet it is.
See also: DNA modifications more diverse than thought
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