21 July 2024
Altered Protein Folding Drives Multicellular Life Evolution

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Understanding Altered Protein Folding in Multicellular Evolution

In a groundbreaking study, researchers have uncovered a fascinating mechanism that propels the evolution of multicellular life forms. The key to this evolutionary drive lies in the altered folding of proteins, a process crucial for the development of complex multicellular organisms. This discovery sheds light on how genetic information translates into the diverse and adaptive behaviors seen in living beings.

The study, led by scientists from the University of Helsinki and the Georgia Institute of Technology, delves into the intricate world of experimental evolution. Through the Multicellularity Long Term Evolution Experiment (MuLTEE), researchers are observing the evolution of novel multicellular functions in laboratory yeast. This ongoing research provides valuable insights into how multicellular traits emerge and evolve over time.

The Role of Protein Folding in Multicellular Evolution

Proteins, the building blocks of life, play a crucial role in the evolution of multicellular organisms. The study highlights the significance of altered protein folding in driving the evolution of complex life forms. By examining the regulation of proteins, researchers have unraveled the intricate process through which multicellular innovations arise.

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One of the most remarkable findings of the study is the evolution of robust bodies in ‘snowflake yeast.’ Over thousands of generations, these yeast organisms transitioned from a fragile state to a robust structure comparable to wood in strength. This transformation was driven by a non-genetic mechanism involving altered protein folding, specifically the downregulation of the chaperone protein Hsp90. This protein, responsible for aiding other proteins in acquiring their functional shape, acted as a critical regulator in shaping the multicellular traits of the yeast.

Implications for Evolutionary Understanding

From an evolutionary perspective, the study underscores the power of non-genetic mechanisms in facilitating rapid evolutionary changes. While genetic mutations have long been the focus of evolutionary research, this study highlights the significant impact of protein folding dynamics on the development of multicellular traits. The ability of chaperone proteins like Hsp90 to influence the behavior of cells and shape the evolution of organisms showcases the complexity and adaptability of biological systems.

Lead author Kristopher Montrose emphasizes the profound effects that subtle alterations in protein folding can have on the nature of multicellular organisms. The discovery of Hsp90 as a key player in driving the evolution of snowflake yeast’s tough bodies highlights the intricate interplay between protein folding and the emergence of complex multicellular structures.

Insights into Evolutionary Creativity

The research findings provide a deeper understanding of the creative and unpredictable nature of evolution in solving complex biological challenges. The study reveals how evolutionary processes can leverage non-genetic mechanisms, such as protein folding, to adapt to new environmental conditions and develop innovative solutions.

Professor Will Ratcliff from the Georgia Institute of Technology notes the surprising role of chaperone proteins like Hsp90 in steering evolutionary change. The ability of these proteins to influence cellular behavior and shape the physical characteristics of multicellular organisms highlights the dynamic and adaptive nature of evolutionary processes.

The study on altered protein folding in driving multicellular evolution offers valuable insights into the intricate mechanisms underlying the development of complex life forms. By unraveling the role of protein folding dynamics in evolutionary processes, researchers have shed light on the creative and adaptive strategies employed by living organisms to thrive in changing environments. This groundbreaking research opens new avenues for exploring the diverse pathways through which life evolves and adapts over time.

Links to additional Resources:

1. www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-05525-1 2. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/12/221215140645.htm 3. www.phys.org/news/2022-12-altered-protein-folding-drives-multicellular.html

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Protein folding, Evolution, Chaperone proteins

Protein folding
Protein folding is the physical process by which a protein, after synthesis by a ribosome as a linear chain of amino acids, changes from an unstable random coil into a more ordered three-dimensional structure. This structure permits the protein to become biologically functional.The folding of many proteins begins even during...
Read more: Protein folding

Evolution
Evolution is the change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. It occurs when evolutionary processes such as natural selection and genetic drift act on genetic variation, resulting in certain characteristics becoming more or less common within a population over successive generations. The process of evolution has...
Read more: Evolution

Chaperone (protein)
In molecular biology, molecular chaperones are proteins that assist the conformational folding or unfolding of large proteins or macromolecular protein complexes. There are a number of classes of molecular chaperones, all of which function to assist large proteins in proper protein folding during or after synthesis, and after partial denaturation....
Read more: Chaperone (protein)

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