Navigation Links
Giving ancient life another chance to evolve

It's a project 500 million years in the making. Only this time, instead of playing on a movie screen in Jurassic Park, it's happening in a lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Using a process called paleo-experimental evolution, Georgia Tech researchers have resurrected a 500-million-year-old gene from bacteria and inserted it into modern-day Escherichia coli(E. coli) bacteria. This bacterium has now been growing for more than 1,000 generations, giving the scientists a front row seat to observe evolution in action.

"This is as close as we can get to rewinding and replaying the molecular tape of life," said scientist Betl Kaar, a NASA astrobiology postdoctoral fellow in Georgia Tech's NASA Center for Ribosomal Origins and Evolution. "The ability to observe an ancient gene in a modern organism as it evolves within a modern cell allows us to see whether the evolutionary trajectory once taken will repeat itself or whether a life will adapt following a different path."

In 2008, Kaar's postdoctoral advisor, Associate Professor of Biology Eric Gaucher, successfully determined the ancient genetic sequence of Elongation Factor-Tu (EF-Tu), an essential protein in E. coli. EFs are one of the most abundant proteins in bacteria, found in all known cellular life and required for bacteria to survive. That vital role made it a perfect protein for the scientists to answer questions about evolution.

After achieving the difficult task of placing the ancient gene in the correct chromosomal order and position in place of the modern gene within E. coli, Kaar produced eight identical bacterial strains and allowed "ancient life" to re-evolve. This chimeric bacteria composed of both modern and ancient genes survived, but grew about two times slower than its counterpart composed of only modern genes.

"The altered organism wasn't as healthy or fit as its modern-day version, at least initially," said Gaucher, "and this created a perfect scenario that would allow the altered organism to adapt and become more fit as it accumulated mutations with each passing day."

The growth rate eventually increased and, after the first 500 generations, the scientists sequenced the genomes of all eight lineages to determine how the bacteria adapted. Not only did the fitness levels increase to nearly modern-day levels, but also some of the altered lineages actually became healthier than their modern counterpart.

When the researchers looked closer, they noticed that every EF-Tu gene did not accumulate mutations. Instead, the modern proteins that interact with the ancient EF-Tu inside of the bacteria had mutated and these mutations were responsible for the rapid adaptation that increased the bacteria's fitness. In short, the ancient gene has not yet mutated to become more similar to its modern form, but rather, the bacteria found a new evolutionary trajectory to adapt.

These results were presented at the recent NASA International Astrobiology Science Conference. The scientists will continue to study new generations, waiting to see if the protein will follow its historical path or whether it will adopt via a novel path altogether.

"We think that this process will allow us to address several longstanding questions in evolutionary and molecular biology," said Kaar. "Among them, we want to know if an organism's history limits its future and if evolution always leads to a single, defined point or whether evolution has multiple solutions to a given problem."

Contact: Jason Maderer
Georgia Institute of Technology

Related biology news :

1. Ancient global warming allowed greening of Antarctica
2. Evaluation of microscopy techniques may help scientists to better understand ancient plants
3. Tongue analysis software uses ancient Chinese medicine to warn of disease
4. Like curry? New biological role identified for compound used in ancient medicine
5. Ancient giant turtle fossil revealed
6. Whale population size, dynamics determined based on ancient DNA
7. LSU research finds orangutans host ancient jumping genes
8. New coelacanth find rewrites history of the ancient fish
9. Ammonites found mini oases at ancient methane seeps
10. Ancient Egyptian cotton unveils secrets of domesticated crop evolution
11. Ancient whale species sheds new light on its modern relatives
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Giving ancient life another chance to evolve
(Date:11/4/2015)... 4, 2015 --> ... published by Transparency Market Research "Home Security Solutions Market - ... 2015 - 2022", the global home security solutions market is expected ... 2022. The market is estimated to expand at a ... to 2022. Rising security needs among customers at homes, ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... Daon, a global leader in mobile biometric ... new version of its IdentityX Platform , IdentityX ... have already installed IdentityX v4.0 and are ... FIDO UAF certified server component as an option ... features. These customers include some of the largest and ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... NEW YORK , Oct. 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... wearable technology, announced a partnership with 2XU, a ... accessories, to deliver a smart hat with advanced ... runners and other athletes to monitor key biometrics ... of the strategic partnership, the two companies will bring ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna ... announced today that the remaining 11,000 post-share consolidation ... Purchase Warrants (the "Series B Warrants") subject to ... exercised on November 23, 2015, which will result ... After giving effect to the issuance of such ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... are paramount. Insertion points for in-line sensors can represent a weak spot where ... InTrac 781/784 series of retractable sensor housings , which are designed to tolerate ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Vancouver, BC (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 ... ... to our customer, OrthoAccel® Technologies, Inc., on being named to Deloitte's 2015 Technology ... Creation Technologies’ Texas facility, OrthoAccel manufactures AcceleDent®, a FDA-cleared, Class II medical device ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 Capricor Therapeutics, Inc. ... the discovery, development and commercialization of first-in-class therapeutics, today ... Officer, is scheduled to present at the 2015 Piper ... a.m. EST, at The Lotte New York Palace Hotel ... . --> . ...
Breaking Biology Technology: