Protein Lineages: Randomness was crucial to ancient genetic changes

1:25pm, August 15, 2007

After resurrecting a protein from an animal species that lived about 470 million years ago, a team of scientists has now partly reconstructed the protein's evolutionary history.

The rare glimpse into a protein's past reveals how a sequence of mutations caused the ancestral molecule to acquire a function possessed by modern forms of the protein, which is present in people and other vertebrates.

The research addresses a long-standing debate among biologists: If the evolutionary clock were turned back and allowed to run again, would the pressures of natural selection steer an organism to the same outcome, or would chance mutations produce a different result?

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