Lung evolution as a cipher for physiology

Department of Pediatrics, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, California 90502, USA.
Physiological Genomics (Impact Factor: 2.81). 05/2009; 38(1):1-6. DOI: 10.1152/physiolgenomics.90411.2008
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT In the postgenomic era, we need an algorithm to readily translate genes into physiologic principles. The failure to advance biomedicine is due to the false hope raised in the wake of the Human Genome Project (HGP) by the promise of systems biology as a ready means of reconstructing physiology from genes. like the atom in physics, the cell, not the gene, is the smallest completely functional unit of biology. Trying to reassemble gene regulatory networks without accounting for this fundamental feature of evolution will result in a genomic atlas, but not an algorithm for functional genomics. For example, the evolution of the lung can be "deconvoluted" by applying cell-cell communication mechanisms to all aspects of lung biology development, homeostasis, and regeneration/repair. Gene regulatory networks common to these processes predict ontogeny, phylogeny, and the disease-related consequences of failed signaling. This algorithm elucidates characteristics of vertebrate physiology as a cascade of emergent and contingent cellular adaptational responses. By reducing complex physiological traits to gene regulatory networks and arranging them hierarchically in a self-organizing map, like the periodic table of elements in physics, the first principles of physiology will emerge.

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    • "For example, the epithelial lining cells of the fish swim bladder express surfactant protein and phospholipid in an unregulated housekeeping fashion. In contrast to this, the amphibian lung epithelium expression of surfactant is regulated by leptin produced by lipofibroblasts (Torday et al. 2009), which are the key to mammalian lung evolution—the cellular paracrine interactions between cells that mediated lung evolution (depicted in fig. 3A, 1–4) are underpinned by the evolution of cell–cell signaling through leptin and PTHrP, soluble factors that bind to their cell surface receptors, triggering a downstream cascade of cis regulatory mechanisms (fig. "
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    ABSTRACT: In contrast to the conventional use of genes to determine the evolution of phenotypes, we have functionally integrated epithelial-mesenchymal interactions that have facilitated lung phylogeny and ontogeny in response to major geologic epochs. As such, this model reveals the underlying principles of lung physiology based on the evolutionary interactions between internal and external selection pressures, providing a novel understanding of lung biology. As a result, it predicts how cell-molecular changes in this process can cause disease and offers counterintuitive insights to diagnosis and treatment based on evolutionary principles.
    Molecular Biology and Evolution 05/2011; 28(11):2973-81. DOI:10.1093/molbev/msr134 · 14.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Perhaps development is more than just morphogenesis. We now recognize that the conceptus expresses epigenetic marks that heritably affect it phenotypically, indicating that the offspring are to some degree genetically autonomous, and that ontogeny and phylogeny may coordinately determine the fate of such marks. This scenario mechanistically links ecology, ontogeny and phylogeny together as an integrated mechanism for evolution for the first time. As a functional example, the Parathyroid Hormone-related Protein (PTHrP) signaling duplicated during the Phanerozoic water-land transition. The PTHrP signaling pathway was critical for the evolution of the skeleton, skin barrier, and lung function, based on experimental evidence, inferring that physiologic stress can profoundly affect adaptation through internal selection, giving seminal insights to how and why vertebrates were able to evolve from water to land. By viewing evolution from its inception in unicellular organisms, driven by competition between pro- and eukaryotes, the emergence of complex biologic traits from the unicellular cell membrane offers a novel way of thinking about the process of evolution from its beginnings, rather than from its consequences as is traditionally done. And by focusing on the epistatic balancing mechanisms for calcium and lipid homeostasis, the evolution of unicellular organisms, driven by competition between pro- and eukaryotes, gave rise to the emergence of complex biologic traits derived from the unicellular plasma lemma, offering a unique way of thinking about the process of evolution. By exploiting the cellular-molecular mechanisms of lung evolution as ontogeny and phylogeny, the sequence of events for the evolution of the skin, kidney and skeleton become more transparent. This novel approach to the evolution question offers equally novel insights to the primacy of the unicellular state, hologenomics and even a priori bioethical decisions.
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    ABSTRACT: In the post-genomic era the complex problem of evolutionary biology can be tackled from the top-down, the bottom-up, or from the middle-out. Given the emergent and contingent nature of this process, we have chosen to take the latter approach, both as a mechanistic link to developmental biology and as a rational means of identifying signaling mechanisms based on their functional genomic significance. Using this approach, we have been able to configure a working model for lung evolution by reverse-engineering lung surfactant from the mammalian lung to the swim bladder of fish. Based on this archetypal cell-molecular model, we have reduced evolutionary biology to cell communication, starting with unicellular organisms communicating with the environment, followed by cell-cell communication to generate metazoa, culminating in the communication of genetic information between generations, i.e. reproduction. This model predicts the evolution of physiologic systems-including development, homeostasis, disease, regeneration/repair, and aging- as a logical consequence of biology reducing entropy. This approach provides a novel and robust way of formulating refutable, testable hypotheses to determine the ultimate origins and first principles of physiology, providing candidate genes for phenotypes hypothesized to have mediated evolutionary changes in structure and/or function. Ultimately, it will form the basis for predictive medicine and molecular bioethics, rather than merely showing associations between genes and pathology, which is an unequivocal Just So Story. In this new age of genomics, our reach must exceed our grasp.
    Cell Communication Insights 09/2009; 2:17-25.
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