To understand how to construct the “speech gene” parrots, scientists had to develop a new way of deciphering DNA.
Scientists have developed a new method of sequencing (decryption) of DNA, which allowed them to discover the genes responsible for the ability of parrots to imitate human speech and other sounds. The study is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Having started to look for genes associated with the vocal skills of parrots, scientists are faced with a problem: the existing methods of DNA sequencing, which involves the synthesis of short sequences, consisting of 100-400 base pairs, and then their subsequent “stitching”, does not allow a sufficiently long segment of DNA needed to identify the regulatory regions of genes required.
His problem, researchers from Duke University (USA) on a shared scientific conferences with experts in the field of computational methods in biology from the University of Maryland. The result of their collaboration was to develop a new method of DNA sequencing, which allows to obtain the sequence length from 2,250 to 23,000 base pairs.
The new technique reduced the time required to decrypt the studied segments of DNA from a few days, which left for stapling short sequences of up to one day. In addition, the scientists were able to dramatically reduce the percentage error of the method up to 0.1% compared with 15% who were characterized by PacBio, similar methods of their competitors.
As a result, researchers have been able to identify two budgies gene, FoxP2 and Egr1, associated with their vocal abilities. FoxP2 is responsible for parrots and people for learning singing and speech, respectively, and Egr1 does the brain receptive to new information. Having analyzed the DNA regions that regulate these genes, scientists hope to better understand the genetic background of sound communication, not only in parrots, but also people. According to the authors, further speaking skills of a person can be linked to its genetic characteristics.