Author Archives: yasmenewarrad


Hey guys! I really think that everyone should take time to read this!

During September of 2005 Joseph L. Wezenter analyzed maize sequences at Montclair University. The goals of his project were similar to that of Phoenix’s group project- to determine what Long Terminal Repeats retrotransposons and what genes are present in maize (for us Amigo), to find the start and stop locations of both, and to ultimately create physical maps depicting their locations.

With the raw sequence from the FASTA file, a web-based piece of software called GenScan was used. GenScan predicts the locations and exon-intron structures of genes in genomic sequences from a variety of organisms such as maize. By being organism–specific, the results are more precise. The FASTA sequences were loaded and maize was selected as the organism. From this the one letter amino acid sequences of the predicted genes were generated and uploaded into BLASTp (protein-protein) of the NCBI website for further analysis.

TIGR ( is another piece of web-based software Joseph used. It is a collection of curate databases containing DNA and protein sequences, gene expression, cellular role, protein family, and taxonomy of microbes, plants, and humans (TIGR 2005).

A phylogenetic analysis was also preformed on these LTRs. It was depicted in a TreeView diagram that represented a pedigree of inherited relationships among molecules, organisms, or both. (Like I know one of the other groups did!!)

Are all lies immoral?

While searching the internet to learn more about the posterior pituitary gland and the hormones it secretes I came across an interesting study. The work of researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands focuses on ethical decision making. They designed an experiment to investigate the biological foundation of lying. 60 male participants received an intranasal dose of either oxytocin, a peptide of nine amino acids that functions as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter, or placebo then split into teams of three and asked to predict the results of 10 coin tosses. They knew that for each correct prediction, they could lie and earn more money to split between their group members, who were engaging in the same task.

The coin toss results reported by participants who had taken oxytocin and those who had received the placebo were very different. Among the control subjects, 23% claimed to have guessed the results of nine or 10 of the coin tosses. But in the oxytocin group, 53% of the participants claimed to have correctly guessed this many coin tosses. So it seems fair to assume that the majority of the subjects who claimed 90% or 100% success rates were lying, but it shows that the oxytocin group were more than twice as likely to lie than the placebo group.

Oxytocin promotes group bonding, so were the subjects who received the oxytocin lying in order to benefit their group? Dr. Shalvi said that the results suggested that people were willing to bend ethical rules to help the people close to them. He goes on to describe how the results highlight the role of bonding and cooperation in shaping dishonesty:

“Together, these findings fit a functional perspective on morality revealing dishonesty to be plastic and rooted in evolved neurobiological circuitries, and align with work showing that oxytocin shifts the decision-maker’s focus from self to group interests.”

The researchers concluded that when dishonesty serves group interests, oxytocin increased lying as well as extreme lying, and when lying served personal self-interests only, oxytocin had no effects.

So not only did I learn that oxytocin is linked to pregnancy and childbirth, among other things stimulating milk production and maternal bonding, but also that it can actually make people more dishonest. Wow!,0,3284673.story

Sea anemone is genetically half animal, half plant

Hey guys! Check this out. Its super cool.

Evolutionary and developmental biologist Ulrich Technau and his team at the University of Vienna have discovered that sea anemones display a genomic landscape with a complexity of regulatory elements similar to that of fruit flies or other animal model systems. This suggests that this principle of gene regulation is already 600 million years old and dates back to the common ancestor of human, fly and sea anemone. On the other hand, sea anemones are more similar to plants rather to vertebrates or insects in their regulation of gene expression by short regulatory RNAs called microRNAs. It assumed that plant microRNAs arose independently from animal microRNAs, but their evolutionary origins, as they state in the article, is unclear. This is the first qualitative difference found between Cnidaria and “higher” animals and the findings provide insight on how important levels of gene regulation can evolve independently.