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It is often thought that evolution is a slow process. During ecological changes in the environment, however, evolution can happen very fast. One of the reasons for this could be the role of new genes that are recruited during that adaptation. DIETHARD TAUTZ pursues the theory that these new genes come out of the so-called non-coding part of the genome. He is interested in studying the fraction of bioactive molecules that come out of random sequences. So far, this explanation has been thought unlikely but, as he explains in this video, synthesizing random sequences and using bacteria as a test system his research group found bioactive molecules in them. This suggests that during fast adaptation processes new genes are recruited from this background of genes in the non-coding part of the genome. This has important implications for our understanding of how adaptation works and offers great potential for the use of these bioactive molecules for medical and pharmaceutical purposes.


Diethard Tautz is Director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology. He is an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts, and of the National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina. Furthermore, he is co-founder and co-editor in chief of Frontiers in Zoology as well as member of several editorial boards, including that of Developmental Biology and Evolution and Development. He is particularly interested in understanding the molecular mechanism of evolutionary adaptations as well as population genetics, speciation and comparative genomics.


Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology consists of three departments: Evolutionary Genetics, Evolutionary Theory, and Microbial Population Biology. 
Basic research is conducted here to explain fundamental processes in evolutionary biology. These include ecological adaptations, the origin of sexuality or the evolution of cooperativity. The range of research work includes ecological, organismal, molecular and theoretical approaches.

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Original publication

Random Sequences Are an Abundant Source of Bioactive RNAs or Peptides

Neme Rafik, Amador Cristina, Yildirim Burcin, McConnell Ellen and Tautz Diethard
Nature Ecology & Evolution
Published in 2017