The gene responsible for sperm in all sexual creatures dates to the beginning of animal evolution—and may be a key to the elusive male birth control pill, a new study says.
The Boule gene, first discovered in humans in 2001, is linked to sperm production in humans and, the study says, is likely responsible for making sperm in every other sexual animal too.
The sperm-production gene is apparently so critical to life that it hasn’t changed since every animal’s common evolutionary ancestor—likely just a blob of cells—arose some 600 million years ago, the researchers conclude.
The study team discovered that the gene is found in a wide range of sexually reproducing creatures, including flies and humans.
This means that Boule is found in all the evolutionary lineages that have branched off from that common ancestor, according to study leader Eugene Xu, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
That the sperm-production gene remains the same “is surprising,” Xu said, since most sex genes rapidly mutate under the pressures of evolution. “It really suggests a new perspective of how we look at humans and how sperm production evolved.”
Sperm researcher Rhonda Snook agreed. The study “represents significant effort in understanding the evolution of sperm production,” she said via email.
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