Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A Vocabulary of Ancient Peptides

23.12.2015

Proteins and languages share many similarities – both yield their meaning through a proper arrangement of basic building blocks. Max Planck scientists apply computational methods to reconstruct primordial building blocks by comparative studies of modern proteins. The same approach is used in linguistics to reconstruct ancient vocabularies through the comparison of modern languages.

In a recent study published in the journal eLife, the scientists report the identification of 40 ancestral, peptidic fragments, which possibly represent the observable remnants of a time when the first proteins were created, more than 3.5 billion years ago.


The first folded proteins seem to have originated from an ancestral set of peptides

Vikram Alva/Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology


Dr. Vikram Alva, first author of the publication

Jörg Abendroth/Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

Proteins are integral building blocks of all life, from bacteria to humans. In our bodies, they are essential for all chemical processes: they form our nails, hair, bones, and muscles, they help digest the food we eat, and they defend us form pathogenic bacteria and viruses.

“Life can be viewed as substantially resulting from the chemical activity of proteins”, says Prof. Andrei Lupas, Director of the Department of Protein Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology.

He and his collaborators are particularly interested in understanding how these complex biomolecules originated. Today we know that proteins are primarily built through the combinatorial assembly of only a few thousand modular units, termed domains.

It is however unclear how these modular units themselves emerged. Together with Dr. Vikram Alva, first author of the study, and Dr. Johannes Söding, presently head of the Quantitative and Computational Biology Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Prof. Lupas investigated the hypothesis that the first protein domains arose by fusion and piecemeal growth from an ancestral set of simple peptides, which themselves emerged in an RNA-based pre-cellular life, around 3.5 billion years ago.

In a systematic analysis of modern proteins, they were able to identify 40 peptidic fragments that occur in seemingly unrelated proteins, yet bear striking resemblance in their sequences and structures. Based on their widespread occurrence in the most ancient proteins (e.g., ribosomal proteins) and on their involvement in basal functions (e.g., RNA-binding, DNA-binding), the authors propose that these fragments are the observable remnants of a primordial RNA-peptide world, a precursor form of the DNA-based life we know today.

In the future, the contribution of these fragments to the formation of protein structure will have to be investigated experimentally, opening new avenues to optimize existing proteins and design new ones, not yet seen in nature. "If we elucidate this process, we should be able to create new protein forms” concludes Prof. Lupas, with exciting applications to biotechnology.

Original Publication:
A vocabulary of ancient peptides at the origin of folded proteins. Alva V, Söding J, Lupas AN. Elife. 2015 Dec 14;4. pii: e09410. doi: 10.7554/eLife.09410. http://elifesciences.org/content/early/2015/12/14/eLife.

Contact:
Andrei Lupas
Mail: andrei.lupas@tuebingen.mpg.de

Nadja Winter, Press officer (Public Relations)
Phone: +49 7071 601- 444
E-mail: presse-eb@tuebingen.mpg.de

About us:
The Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology conducts basic research in the fields of biochemistry, genetics and evolutionary biology. It employs about 360 people and is located at the Max Planck Campus in Tübingen. The Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology is one of 83 research institutes that the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science maintains in Germany.

Weitere Informationen:

http://elifesciences.org/content/early/2015/12/14/eLife

Nadja Winter | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie
Further information:
http://eb.mpg.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>