Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fast driver spotted on evolutionary tracks

14.10.2016

A chemical switch that modifies proteins contributes to diversity among life forms

Living things have long used a previously unrecognized method for diversifying and evolving. This strategy, as reported this week in Science, could account for some of the variation seen across species.


Phenotypic diversity and evolution in yeast species (grey and red) are shown. Mass spectrometry (a representative spectrum is shown in green) was used to identify thousands of phosphorylation sites on 18 yeast species, and phylogenetic approaches traced the evolutionary history of those sites across the yeast lineage.

Credit: Villen Lab/University of Washington

The work was led by the labs of Pedro Beltrao of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in the United Kingdom, and UW Medicine researcher Judit Villen, assistant professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

They worked with the labs of Maitreya Dunham, UW associate professor of genome sciences, and of Francesc Posas and Eulalia de Nadal of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain as additional collaborators.

"This study is about understanding how evolution works, which tells you how species adapt to changing environments over many generations," said Beltrao in a news release on the paper from EMBL-EBI.

Most studies of evolution examine differences in the DNA or genome, but there are many implications of these differences that are not obvious by just looking at the DNA.

"For example," he said, "when you compare humans and chimps, they are obviously different, even though a good part of their genetic makeup is more or less the same. Our task is to figure out how diversity is generated, so that we can see in detail how life evolves."

The genome contains the instructions for making proteins, the machines and building blocks of life. These proteins are frequently modified after their production to regulate their biological function and other characteristics.

This mechanism offers an avenue to expand functional diversity beyond the sequences encoded by the DNA.

The researchers concentrated on a particular protein modification called phosphorylation.

"Phosphorylation is important to regulate protein function and to respond to changing environments," explained Villen, "so we thought new phosphorylation sites could be created during evolution to allow species to occupy new niches and adapt their metabolism to exploit available nutrients."

In their work, Villen and her collaborators traced the evolutionary history of thousands of phosphorylation sites on proteins across 18 yeast species. These are single-cell eukaryotic microorganisms that originated hundreds of millions of years ago.

Eukaryotes are living things whose cells contain a membrane-surrounded nucleus and whose DNA is housed in chromosomes. Human cells, too, are eukaryotic.

Existing knowledge about the origins and evolutionary history of yeast and their DNA sequences, along with recent developments in phosphoproteomics -- identifying and cataloging proteins modified by phosphate -- enabled the researchers to approach this project.

"Until recently," Villen said, "the technology was not ready to study phosphorylation at such depth or for so many samples. Now these experiments are much easier. In fact, a team of three very talented undergraduate students conducted most of the initial phosphoproteomic experiments for this project."

The authors found that only a small fraction of phosphosites -- locations on a protein molecule that can be phosphorylated -- remain conserved across the hundreds of millions of years that separate the various yeast species under study. Additional research on these few ancient sites suggests that the older sites are more likely to be functionally important, compared to those most recently acquired.

"Many young sites have also been found to be functional, and the fact that most of the sites are relatively new acquisitions shows the rapid scale of evolution of phosphorylation," Villen explained.

The researchers thought that the rapid evolution of phosphorylation could contribute strongly to the development of diverse characteristics observed across species or allow for new species to arise. This is analogous to what happens in cancer, where changes to cellular signaling and protein phosphorylation can alter what a cell looks like, as well as its metabolism, proliferation and migration properties.

Further analysis and comparisons of the yeast protein phosphosites revealed significant differences in phosphorylation motif preferences across species. Motifs are distinctive patterns around the site.

"This suggests that the proteins responsible for those phosphorylation events have changed in some way, either in abundance, specificity, or activity,'' Villen explained.

"On the whole, our results showed that the evolution of phospho-regulation is highly dynamic," the researchers concluded.

Changes in the regulation of proteins by such modifications, according to the scientists, have the capacity to quickly generate a diversity of solutions to conditions faced by organisms during evolution.

###

The research was supported by an Ellison Medical Foundation Award, an Amgen scholarship, a Mary Gates scholarship, a National Science Foundation grant, a Human Frontier Science Program award, a European Research Council grant, and several Spanish and Catalan government awards.

The title of the Science article is, "Evolution of protein phosphorylation across 18 fungal species."

Media Contact

Leila Gray
leilag@uw.edu
206-685-0381

 @hsnewsbeat

http://hsnewsbeat.uw.edu/ 

Leila Gray | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: DNA Medicine eukaryotic evolutionary history phosphorylation proteins

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>