A groundbreaking new study about octopuses has found one remarkable feature about them that we had no idea they had.
Scientists have just stumbled onto an astonishing finding about octopuses and their cousins, squids and cuttlefish, and it could totally change how we think about cephalopods. The study comes to the remarkable conclusion that cephalopods are able to ignore their own DNA information, enabling them to adapt in rather incredible ways to the surrounding environment.
Octopuses have long been heralded as very smart creatures by opening up glass jars from the inside and squeezing into unimaginably tight spaces in order to escape. Scientists took a closer look at them, and found that the “central dogma” of molecular biology, which holds that cells first convert DNA into RNA, the latter of which creates the proteins that results in a species traits, doesn’t really apply to cephalopods.
Instead, cephalopods have found a way to alter their RNA to create new proteins, and these species do it frequently, more than any other species.
“Octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish often do not follow the genetic instructions in their DNA to the letter,” the statement from Cell Press reads. “Instead, they use enzymes to pluck out specific adenosine RNA bases (some of As, out of the As, Ts, Gs, and Us of RNA) that codes for proteins and replace them with a different base, called Inosine. This process–called “RNA editing”–is rarely used to recode proteins in most animals, but octopuses and their kin edit RNA base pairs in over half of their transcribed genes. When researchers did experiments to quantify and characterize the extent of this RNA editing across cephalopod species, they found evidence that this genetic strategy has profoundly constrained evolution of the cephalopod genome. The study appears in Cell on April 6.
“Researchers have found that octopuses use RNA editing to rapidly adapt to temperature changes and that the majority of RNA transcripts in squid neurons contain these edits. In the new study, researchers hoped to find out how commonplace these edits are, how they evolved along the cephalopod lineage, and how such extraordinary editing capabilities affect the evolution of the cephalopod genome.”