In this lecture, I do a bit of a departure by discussing a body part that is microscopic: the hemoglobin molecule that carries oxygen inside of our red blood cells.
The lecture covers the genetics of the beta globin cluster, including the origin of beta and alpha globin subunits by gene duplication in ancient vertebrates, the convergence of hemoglobin in the jawed fishes with the oxygen transport system in hagfish and lampreys, the changes in the pattern of gene duplications in the beta globin cluster in anthropoid primates versus ancestral eutherians and some prosimian primates, and the importance of hemoglobin expression in human adaptations to altitude. As the lecture gets going, I give some more detail about the geological timescale and how it relates to the origin of anthropoids, following up on the short introduction in the last lecture.
- Do you think other kinds of animals have systems for oxygen transport that involve molecules similar to hemoglobin?
- The human adaptation to altitude differs in different populations that live in high places. Why do you think this is the case?
- The beta globin cluster includes pseudogenes in different species of primates. Why do these nonfunctioning genes persist in the genome if they are just junk?