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Protein adaptation shows that life on early earth lived in a hot, acidic environment
Date:4/4/2011

sms and are essential for life in mammals, the researchers first constructed a family tree of the more than 200 thioredoxin sequences available from the three domains of life. Then they reconstructed the sequences of the ancestral thioredoxin enzymes using statistical methods based on maximum likelihood. Finally, they synthesized the genes that encoded these sequences, expressed the ancient proteins in the cells of modern Escherichia coli bacteria and then purified the proteins.

"By resurrecting proteins, we are able to gather valuable information about the adaptation of extinct forms of life to climatic, ecological and physiological alterations that cannot be uncovered through fossil record examinations," said Gaucher.

The reconstructed enzymes from the Precambrian period -- which ended about 542 million years ago -- were used to examine how environmental conditions, including pH and temperature, affected the evolution of the enzymes and their chemical mechanisms.

"Given the ancient origin of the reconstructed thioredoxin enzymes, with some of them predating the buildup of atmospheric oxygen, we thought their catalytic chemistry would be simple, but we found that thioredoxin enzymes use a complex mixture of chemical mechanisms that increases their efficiency over the simpler compounds that were available in early geochemistry," said Julio Fernndez, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences professor at Columbia University.

Fernndez led a team that included Columbia University postdoctoral researchers Raul Perez-Jimenez, Jorge Alegre-Cebollada and Sergi Garcia-Manyes, and graduate student Pallav Kosuri in using an assay based on single molecule force spectroscopy to measure the activity level of the thioredoxin enzymes under different pH levels.

For their experiments, the researchers used an atomic force microscope to pick up and stretch an engineered protein in a solution containing thioredoxin. They first
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Contact: Abby Robinson
abby@innovate.gatech.edu
404-385-3364
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert  

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