Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers See History Of Life In The Structure Of Transfer RNA

07.03.2008
Transfer RNA is an ancient molecule, central to every task a cell performs and thus essential to all life. A new study from the University of Illinois indicates that it is also a great historian, preserving some of the earliest and most profound events of the evolutionary past in its structure.

The study, co-written by Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, a professor of crop sciences, and postdoctoral researcher Feng-Jie Sun, appears March 7 in PLoS Computational Biology. Caetano-Anollés is an affiliate of the U. of I. Institute for Genomic Biology.

Of the thousands of RNAs so far identified, transfer RNA (tRNA) is the most direct intermediary between genes and proteins. Like many other RNAs (ribonucleic acids), tRNA aids in translating genes into the chains of amino acids that make up proteins. With the help of a highly targeted enzyme, each tRNA molecule recognizes and latches onto a specific amino acid, which it carries into the protein-building machinery. In order to successfully add its amino acid to the end of a growing protein, tRNA must also accurately read a coded segment of messenger RNA, which gives instructions for the exact sequence of amino acids in the protein.

The fact that tRNA is so central to the task of building proteins probably means that it has been around for a long time, Caetano-Anollés said. His inquiry began with a hunch that understanding the structural properties of tRNA would shed light on how organisms and viruses evolved.

... more about:
»Caetano-Anollés »RNA »amino »superkingdoms »tRNA

“Perhaps in evolution there are things that are so fundamental that they are kept, held onto, for millions or even billions of years,” Caetano-Anollés said. “Those are the fossils, the molecular fossils, that tell us about the past. “Therefore, studying these molecules can address fundamental questions in biology and evolution.”

All tRNAs assemble themselves into a shape that, if flattened, resembles a cloverleaf. The team began by looking for patterns in this cloverleaf structure, using detailed data from hundreds of molecules representing viruses and each of the three superkingdoms of life: archaea, bacteria and eukarya.

The researchers converted all distinguishing features of the individual tRNA cloverleaf structures into coded characters, a process that allowed a computerized search for the most “parsimonious” (that is, the simplest, most probable) tRNA family tree. They conducted the same analysis on the tRNAs of each of the superkingdoms, to see how far these groupings diverged from the overall tree. This comparison allowed them to determine the order in which viruses and each of the superkingdoms diverged.

The new analysis supports an earlier study that suggested that the archaea were the first to arise as an evolutionarily distinguishable group. Archaea are microbes that can survive in boiling acid, near sulfurous ocean vents or in other extreme environments. The earlier study, also led by Caetano-Anollés, analyzed the vast catalog of protein folds – those precisely configured regions in proteins that give them their functionality – as a guidebook to evolutionary history.

“The transfer RNA data matches our earlier data,” Caetano-Anollés said. “This is important because two lines of independent evidence are supporting each other.”

The new analysis also indicates that viruses emerged not long after the archaea, with the superkingdoms eukarya and bacteria following much later – and in that order. This finding may influence the ongoing debate over whether viruses existed prior to, or after, the emergence of living cells, Caetano-Anollés said.

“This supports the idea that viruses arose from the cellular domain,” he said.

Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Further information:
http://www.uiuc.edu

Further reports about: Caetano-Anollés RNA amino superkingdoms tRNA

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

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 we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>