Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Natural-born divers and the molecular traces of evolution

An aquatic lifestyle imposes serious demands for the organism, and this is true even for the tiniest molecules that form our body.

When the ancestors of present marine mammals initiated their return to the oceans, their physiology had to adapt radically to the new medium. Dr. Michael Berenbrink and his colleagues at Liverpool University have been studying how myoglobin, the molecule responsible for delivering oxygen to the muscles during locomotion, has been modified in seals and whales to help them cope with the needs of a life at sea.

The researchers have found evidence indicating that the net positive charge of this protein is increased in marine mammals compared with terrestrial relatives, and they have speculated that this may help improving the solubility of the molecule. This is important as divers may contain 10 times more myoglobin in their muscles than terrestrial animals. The team has also found a conspicuous increase of the amino acid histidine in the myoglobin of strong divers, which may allow the animal to deal better with the accumulation of lactic acid that is frequent during long dives (the same build up is the cause of the cramps we sometimes get during strenuous exercise).

In order to confirm that this was indeed the result of evolutionary pressure, they went on to study the molecular sequence of myoglobin in small aquatic mammals such as beavers, muskrats and water shrews, which only dive for considerably shorter periods of time, to see if they could also find evidence for the same trend. Indeed, the net charge of the myoglobin molecule in aquatic rodents was twice as high compared to their strictly terrestrial relatives, and the trend was also verified for some semi-aquatic species of insectivores. Graduate student Scott Mirceta will be presenting these latest results at the Society of Experimental Biology Annual Meeting in Glasgow on Monday 29th June 2009.

The net electric charge of any protein is directly related to the charge of its individual amino acids, and therefore it can be predicted if the amino acid sequence is known. Dr. Berenbrink's team have determined large parts of the myoglobin sequence for four different species of insectivores, and combined it with the analysis of already published sequences from other species to reach their conclusions. They were careful to select species with close terrestrial relatives that could be used as a natural control group during the sequence comparison, so that differences at the molecular level could be safely assumed to be the product of their habitat preference.

"This work will contribute to our understanding of protein solubility in general", explains Dr.Berenbrink. "It will also allow the analysis of natural selection on protein structure/function in multiple parallel cases in which a high muscle myogobin content evolved, such as in divers but also in burrowing animals that normally experience hypoxia".

Cristian C. A. Bodo | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>