Studies: Similar proteins protect human skin like turtles

Studies: Similar proteins protect human skin like turtles

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A working group led by molecular biologist Leopold Eckhart from the University Clinic for Dermatology at MedUni Vienna found in a genome comparison that genes for important skin proteins were created 310 million years ago by a common ancestor of humans and turtles. The study has now been published in the top journal “Molecular Biology and Evolution”.

The shell of the turtle is a highly successful concept of evolutionary development, which is distinguished from other reptiles by its defense function. As part of the study, Leopold Eckhart's group examined the genes that are responsible for the skin layers of the European pond turtle shell and a North American turtle species, in order to compare them with genes in human skin.

Results from this study suggest that hard shell formation was caused by mutations in a gene group known as the Epidermal Differentiation Complex (EDC). Comparisons of genomic data from different reptiles indicate that the EDC mutations responsible occurred when the turtles separated from other reptiles approximately 250 million years ago.

Common ancestor of humans and turtles
It is noteworthy that the basic organization of the EDC genes in humans and turtles is the same. This suggests the emergence of the prototypical EDC genes in a common ancestor that lived 310 million years ago and was similar to today's reptiles.

In the case of turtles, these genes developed in such a way that proteins are formed which lead to a marked hardening of the outermost layer of the skin, increased cross-linking and thus the formation of a shell. In humans, EDC genes protect the skin from the entry of microbes and allergens.
This new study shows that evolutionarily related genes have a protective function in both humans and turtles. By comparing the skin of humans and animals, one hopes to better understand the interactions of the proteins. Findings derived from this could lead to medical applications in the future, such as improved therapy for psoriasis (psoriasis), in which mutations were found in EDC genes.

The study also included: Center for Integrative Bioinformatics Vienna (CIBIV), Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University of Vienna; University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Schönbrunn Zoo and the University of Bologna. (MEDUNIWIEN)

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