Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Novel insights into the evolution of protein networks

22.03.2013
System-wide networks of proteins are indispensable for organisms. Function and evolution of these networks are among the most fascinating research questions in biology.

Bioinformatician Thomas Rattei, University of Vienna, and physicist Hernan Makse, City University New York (CUNY), have reconstructed ancestral protein networks. The results are of high interest not only for evolutionary research but also for the interpretation of genome sequence data. Recently, the researchers published their paper in the renowned journal PLOS ONE.

The cells of all organisms consist mostly of proteins, which develop various functions through their complex interactions. These functions range from metabolism, maintenance and control of the cellular structure to the exchange of signals with other cells and the environment. Proteins rarely act alone – only their system-wide network makes organisms viable. "The knowledge about function and evolution of these protein networks is currently one of the most fascinating questions in biology and relevant e.g. also to cancer research", explains Thomas Rattei, Head of the Department of Computational Systems Biology at the University Center Althanstrasse.

In pursuit of the blueprint of protein networks

The combination of 20 different building blocks – amino acids – results in an enormous variety of theoretically possible protein variants; many more than the estimated number of stars in the universe. The random formation of an interaction between proteins seems therefore extremely unlikely. Thomas Rattei, Professor of In-Silico Genomics at the University of Vienna, and Hernan Makse, Professor of Physics at the City University New York (CUNY), and their teams investigate how complex and manifold protein networks could still evolve in present-day organisms.

Starting point of the joint research project was a hypothesis emphasising the importance of the duplication of proteins in the course of evolution. If the gene encoding a protein is duplicated in the genome, which often happens in evolution, original and copy will interact with the same partners in the protein network. Once original and copy diverge over time, novel proteins with individual features and own partners in the network will emerge. Interactions in the network would thereby not be newly created but evolve through duplication and divergence from simpler ancestors.

Protein networks of extinct ancestors were reconstructed

The two workgroups around bioinformatician Thomas Rattei and physicist Hernan Makse tested and improved this hypothesis in an elaborate computational experiment. They developed a novel method for the reconstruction of protein networks of extinct evolutionary ancestors from the genomes and networks of present-day species. Data of seven species from various domains of life were used: from bacteria, fungi, plants, animals to humans.

Present-day networks – complex structures through simple mechanisms

The comparison of these reconstructed ancient protein networks yielded a surprisingly clear result: the present-day networks can be explained almost exclusively through the mechanism of duplication and divergence. Novel interactions between proteins emerge on rare occasions. This principle seems to be universal in the evolution of species as it was confirmed by the data obtained from all species analysed in this study. This principle could also explain the dynamics of other biological networks and it explains special features of protein networks such as self-similarity (fractality) in a straightforward way.

Useful for the interpretation of genome sequences and evolutionary biology

The results of the joint research project of the University of Vienna and CUNY will not only be relevant for evolutionary biology. They particularly support the interpretation of genome sequence data, which has become a powerful tool in many areas of biology and medicine in the last years. This is also the goal of many other current research projects of the Department of Computational Systems Biology, which focuses on research on pathogens, microbial communities and molecular interactions between species adopting a system-oriented approach.

Publication in PLOS ONE:

The evolutionary dynamics of protein-protein interaction networks inferred from the reconstruction of ancient networks. Yuliang Jin, Dmitrij Turaev, Thomas Weinmaier, Thomas Rattei, Hernan Makse. In: PLOS ONE, 2013.

DOI: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0058134

Thomas Rattei | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.univie.ac.at

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-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: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>