Research by Greg Haenel, professor of biology, and Victoria Moore, associate professor of chemistry, brought together expertise from their departments to better understand how mitochondria respond evolutionarily to extreme environments and hybridization.
Greg Haenel, professor of Biology, and Victoria Moore, associate professor of chemistry, published “Functional Divergence of Mitochondria and Coevolution of Genomes: Cool Mitochondria in Hot Lizards” in the September/October issue of the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.
This research brought together expertise from the biology and chemistry departments to better understand how mitochondria respond evolutionarily to extreme environments and hybridization.
Mitochondria are responsible for producing much of the energy used in cells. Haenel and Moore compared mitochondrial function in two species of lizards, one from a very hot part of the desert in Arizona and the other from a less extreme environment. They found that while both species produced adenosine triphosphate (ATP) at the same rate, the lizards from the hotter environments used less oxygen while doing so.
By also examining mitochondria of hybrids formed from mating between the two species, they were able to show that the mitochondria, which has its own genes, has coevolved with the nuclear genome. Therefore, incompatibilities between mitochondria and nuclear genes may be a key factor in maintaining genetic boundaries between closely related species.
This research was funded in part by grants from Elon’s Faculty Research and Development Committee.