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Single Protein Could Be the Achilles Heel of All Men

Misleading Headline of the Day

The frighteningly prophetic vision of Y: The Last Man might be closer than we think.

A recent study of fruit flies, which are distressingly similar to humans in the way their genes operate, has shown that male flies use a special protein to make up for their lack of a second X chromosome. There are thousands of genes in the body that need to be regulated, and male flies need some way of multiplying their X chromosomes in order to do that.

The study, led by Brown University’s Erica Larschan, sought to see how big a role that protein plays. From LiveScience:

Scientists have thought a protein called MSL (which stands for male-specific lethal – without it, males die) boosted gene expression of the X chromosome. But they didn’t know how or the magnitude of impact. Larschan and her team examined how many copies of the X chromosome genes were being made in comparison to other genes.

They discovered that this protein complex acts as a sort of genetic power tool, doubling the gene expression on the X chromosome. It turns out, this protein complex makes it easier for enzymes to copy the genes on the X chromosome. More gene copies means more expressed proteins.

The results are surprising scientists, who did not understand the magnitude of MSL, and giving them new insight into gender-specific diseases. That’s all well and good, but the ominous naming of MSL seems quite appropriate. If I can put on my psuedo-science conspiracy hat for a moment, I’m going to declare this the true male Achilles heel. This is a unique, biological difference between men and women that could actually bring about a man-ending scenario.

I just want to say right now that some of my best friends are geneticist women.

(LiveScience via io9)

 

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