Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Oldest Hemoglobin Ancestors Offer Clues To Earliest Oxygenbased Life

20.04.2004


Close look at structure of transport proteins could aid search< for future blood substitutes

Red-blooded genealogists take note: The discovery in microbes of two oxygen-packing proteins, the earliest known ancestors to hemoglobin, brings scientists closer to identifying the earliest life forms to use oxygen.

According to the project’s lead investigator, University of Hawaii microbiologist Maqsudul Alam, the research may also aid in the search for blood substitutes as new molecular details shed light on how the structure of such proteins, called protoglobins, evolved to transport and release oxygen.

Scientists from the Maui High Performance Computing Center and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center contributed to the research. The findings will appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in an online "Early Edition" this week (at www.pnas.org) and in the April 27 print issue. A four-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation supported the project.

To life on primordial Earth, oxygen was poison. Within single- celled archaea, special proteins arose that captured and transported molecular oxygen, not to release it for respiration but to isolate and detoxify it to protect the organism. Archaea are a distinct group of microbes. Their lineage diverged long ago from a common ancestor they shared with bacteria and eukaryotes (plants, animals and other life forms that encase their DNA within a nucleus). Many strains of archaea exist, often in the planet’s harshest, hottest and oxygen-deprived environments. Some, however, adapted to use oxygen.

Alam’s research group found the two primitive protoglobulins in two different archaea species. One, Aeropyrum pernix, is limited to oxygen-based respiration, survives optimally in near-boiling saltwater, and was first discovered among thermal sea vents off Japan. The other, Methanosarcina acetivorans, uses several anaerobic - or oxygen-free - metabolic pathways that create methane gas. M. acetivorans is found in a wide range of realms, including lake-bottom muck, composting leaves, cow pies and human intestines. The genomes of both have recently been sequenced.

The ability to use oxygen for respiration allowed the diversity of life to expand vastly, an impact more fundamental, if perhaps not as dramatic, as the evolutionary transitions organisms made adapting from sea to land, from the ground to the air, or from "all fours" to upright.

Elizabeth Hood, who directs the areas of signal transduction and cellular regulation for NSF’s Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, said, "As early life forms were established on earth, the atmosphere contained numerous toxic molecules, including nitric oxide and hydrogen sulfide. Early hemoglobins most likely evolved to bind and detoxify these gases. When oxygen became a component of the atmosphere, it was also toxic, and these early organisms used hemoglobin to bind and ultimately detoxify the oxygen."

However, for advanced and larger life forms to exist in an oxygen- rich atmosphere on land, a mechanism was needed to take advantage of oxygen’s benefits, Hood said, and hemoglobins evolved into oxygen carriers rather than detoxifiers. "Finding early hemoglobins in the most primitive life forms on earth testifies to their crucial role in the development of life as we know it today," she said.

(In humans, with each breath in, hemoglobin binds oxygen in the lungs. Then, carried by blood cells made red by its oxygenated presence, the protein transports oxygen to tissues near and far in the body, where it then releases oxygen, which is essential to cellular respiration.)

To find the two protoglobins, the research team used advanced tools of biotechnology and high-performance computing, cloning genetic sequences from the two microbes and using specialized E. coli bacteria as gene-expression machinery to produce samples of the proteins. To analyze their structures, the team compared alignments with other members of the hemoglobin family of compounds. Computers generated models and created "molecular dynamic simulations" that illustrate with animations how the proteins bind with carbon monoxide, nitric oxide and oxygen.

Genetic sequences, binding characteristics and molecular structures of protoglobins were compared with those of hemoglobins and other oxygen-transport molecules from a wide range of organisms, including bacteria, tubeworms, roundworms, segmented "bloodworms," mice, humans and sperm whales.

According to Alam, the similarities between these molecules and the protoglobins of A. pernix and M. acetivorans suggest Sintriguing connections" between them and the evolution of mechanisms that sense oxygen, carbon monoxide, nitric oxide and hydrogen sulfide. These similarities, he said, also suggest connections to LUCA, short-hand for the "Last Universal Common Ancestor."

"LUCA is believed to have been a metabolically ’flexible’ single- celled organism with the ability to utilize oxygen for energy before free oxygen even existed in the air," said Alam. "We think protoglobin helped give life to LUCA. And its descendents - hemoglobin, myoglobin, neuroglobin, and cytoglobin - allowed higher organisms to evolve" by allowing organisms to maintain a metabolic balance in an oxygenated world.

Sean Kearns | NSF
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov
http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/media/start.htm

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

nachricht Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

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...

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

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>