More than 600 million years of evolution has taken two unlikely distant cousins turkeys and scallops - down very different physical paths from a common ancestor. But University of Leeds researchers have found that a motor protein, myosin 2, remains structurally identical in both creatures.
The discovery suggests that the tiny motor protein is much more important than previously thought and for humans it may even hold a key to understanding potentially fatal conditions such as aneurisms.
Says Professor Knight of the Universitys Faculty of Biological Sciences: This is an astonishing discovery. Myosin 2s function is to make the smooth muscle in internal organs tense and relax involuntarily. These creatures have completely different regulatory mechanisms: the myosin in a turkeys gizzards allows it to chew food in the absence of teeth, while that in a scallop enables it to swim. Yet they have exactly the same structure.
Myosin molecules generate tension in smooth muscle by adhering to form a filament, which grabs hold of a neighbouring filament, and relaxes by letting go. When the muscle is in a relaxed state, myosin molecule folds itself up into a compact structure.
This folded structure allows the smooth muscles to adjust to being different lengths so they can operate over a large distance, such as the bladder or the uterus expanding and contracting. In contrast, skeletal muscles operate over a narrow range, defined by how much joints can move.
Professor Knight says: We were puzzled to find that the scallops myosin 2 had retained its ability to fold and unfold, as they dont need to accommodate a large range of movement. After all, the scallop only moves its shell a little when it swims.
In evolution, if something is not essential to the survival of an organism, it is not conserved. The fact that the scallop has retained all the functions of its myosin 2 over hundreds of millions of years tells us that this
|Contact: Peter Knight|
University of Leeds