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New study reveals just how much octopuses can edit their genes

A new study reveals that octopuses can edit more than half of their genes, reports.

The study, conducted by scientists from the Tel Aviv University and published in the journal Cell, concluded that out of their 20,000 genes, octopuses, squids and cuttlefish have at least 11,000 active RNA editing sites.

RNA is usually the messenger and copyist for DNA, but these animals have the feature that can change information in translation, with enzymes able to swap out certain nucleotides in the RNA’s code (known as the letters A, U, G and C) for others, thus creating proteins that were never encoded in the DNA in the first pace.


Most of these edits happen in the nervous system of the animals, while previous research suggested that they used RNA editing so as to adapt as quickly as possible to temperature changes.

Nevertheless, scientists found that where RNA editing was happening, DNA mutation, the main way organisms adapt and evolve so as they have better chances of survival, wasn’t. “We know there’s a price,” says Eli Eisenberg, Tel Aviv University biophysicist and study co-author. “The price is slowing down genome evolution…Cephalopods probably chose to take this RNA bargain over genome evolution, and maybe vertebrates made the other choice—they preferred genome evolution over editing.”

Lydia Peirce