Profound discovery of the origins of life on Earth – evolution of metal-binding proteins

Researchers have explored the evolution of metal-binding proteins over billions of years.

To address one of the most deeply unanswered questions in biology, a team led by Rutgers has discovered the structures of proteins that may be responsible for the origins of life in the primordial stew of ancient Earth.

The study appears in the journal science progress.

Researchers have discovered how primitive life on our planet arose from simple non-living materials. They asked what properties define life as we know it and concluded that anything alive needs to collect and use energy, from sources like the sun or hydrothermal vents.

In molecular terms, this could mean that the ability to shuffle electrons is critical to life. Since the best elements for electron transfer are metals (think standard electrical wires) and most biological activities are carried out by proteins, the researchers decided to explore a combination of the two—that is, proteins that bind metals.

Ancient Earth Primal Life Origin Soup

To address one of the most deeply unanswered questions in biology, a team led by Rutgers has discovered the structures of proteins that may be responsible for the origins of life in the primordial stew of ancient Earth. Credit: Rutgers

They compared all existing protein structures that bind metals to establish any common features, based on the hypothesis that these common features were present in ancestral proteins and diversified and passed down to form the set of proteins we see today.

The evolution of protein structures entails understanding how new folds arise from previously existing folds, so the researchers designed a computational method that found that the vast majority of metal-binding proteins in existence are fairly similar regardless of the type of metal they bind to, and the organism they’re in. come from or the function assigned to the protein as a whole.

“We’ve seen that the metal-binding nuclei of the proteins present are actually similar even though the proteins themselves may not be,” said study lead author Jana Bromberg, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. “We’ve also seen that these metal-binding nuclei often consist of repeating core structures, sort of like LEGO blocks. Oddly enough, these blocks are also found in other regions of proteins, not just metal-binding nuclei, and in many other proteins that have not been Our observation suggests that this rearrangement of these small building blocks may have had one or a small number of common ancestors and gave rise to the full range of proteins and their functions currently available—that is, life as we know it.”

said Bromberg, whose research focuses on deciphering (function(d, s, id){ var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.6"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

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