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Giving ancient life another chance to evolve
Date:7/11/2012

, "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."


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Contact: Jason Maderer
maderer@gatech.edu
404-385-2966
Georgia Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

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