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A bioinformaticians view on the evolution of smell perception

by Anders, Patrizia

Abstract (Summary)
Background:The origin of vertebrate sensory systems still contains many mysteries and thus challenges to bioinformatics. Especially the evolution of the sense of smell maintains important puzzles, namely the question whether or not the vomeronasal system is older than the main olfactory system. Here I compare receptor sequences of the two distinct systems in a phylogenetic study, to determine their relationships among several different species of the vertebrates.Results:Receptors of the two olfactory systems share little sequence similarity and prove to be a challenge in multiple sequence alignment. However, recent dramatical improvements in the area of alignment tools allow for better results and high confidence. Different strategies and tools were employed and compared to derive ahigh quality alignment that holds information about the evolutionary relationships between the different receptor types. The resulting Maximum-Likelihood tree supports the theory that the vomeronasal system is rather an ancestor of the main olfactory system instead of being an evolutionary novelty of tetrapods.Conclusions:The connections between the two systems of smell perception might be much more fundamental than the common architecture of receptors. A better understanding of these parallels is desirable, not only with respect to our view on evolution, but also in the context of the further exploration of the functionality and complexity of odor perception. Along the way, this work offers a practical protocol through the jungle of programs concerned with sequence data and phylogenetic reconstruction.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Högskolan i Skövde

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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ISBN:

Date of Publication:11/06/2006

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