The study, in the journal Structure, reveals that after eons of gradual evolution, proteins suddenly experienced a “big bang” of innovation.
The active regions of many proteins, called domains, combined with each other or split apart to produce a host of structures that had never been seen before. This explosion of new forms coincided with the rapidly increasing diversity of the three superkingdoms of life (bacteria; the microbes known as archaea; and eukarya, the group that includes animals, plants, fungi and many other organisms).
Lead author Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, a professor of bioinformatics in the department of crop sciences at the University of Illinois and an affiliate of the Institute for Genomic Biology, has spent years studying protein structures – he calls them “architectures” – which he suggests offer a reliable record of evolutionary events.
By conducting a census of all the domains that appear in different groups of organisms and comparing the protein repertoires of hundreds of different groups, the researchers were able to construct a timeline of protein evolution that relates directly to the history of life.
“The history of the protein repertoire should match the history of the entire organism because the organism is made up of all those pieces,” Caetano-Anollés said.
He and his co-author, postdoctoral researcher Minglei Wang, were interested in tracing how proteins make use of their domains, or groups of domains, to accomplish various tasks. These domains or domain clusters can be thought of as “modules” that fit together in various ways to achieve different ends.
Unlike the sequence of amino acids in a protein, which is highly susceptible to change, the protein modules found today in living organisms have endured because they perform critical tasks beneficial to the organisms that host them, Caetano-Anollés said.
“These modules are resistant to change, they are highly integrated and they are used in different contexts,” he said.
By tracing the history of the modules, the researchers were able to build a rough timeline of protein evolution. It revealed that before the three superkingdoms began to emerge, most proteins contained only single domains that performed a lot of tasks.
“As time progressed, these domains started to combine with others and they became very specialized,” Caetano-Anollés said. This eventually led to the big bang of protein architectures.
“Exactly at the time of the big bang,” many of the combined domains began to split apart, creating numerous single-domain modules again, he said. But these new modules were much more efficient and specialized than their ancient predecessors had been.
“This makes a lot of sense,” Caetano-Anollés said. “As you become more complex, you would want to fine-tune things, to do things in a more tailored way.”
The protein modules of the three superkingdoms also began to diverge more dramatically from one another, with the eukarya (the group that includes plants and animals) hosting the greatest diversity of modules.
“This explosion of diversity allowed the eukarya to do things with their proteins that other organisms could not do,” Caetano-Anollés said.
Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Bare bones: Making bones transparent
27.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology
Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
27.04.2017 | Life Sciences
27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences