Nav: Home

A new tool to decipher evolutionary biology

May 09, 2017

Understanding evolution is one of the cornerstones of biology - evolution is, in fact, the sole explanation for life's diversity on our planet.

Based on the evolution of proteins, researchers may explain the emergence of new species and functions through genetic changes, how enzymes with novel functions might be engineered, or, for example, how humans are related to their closest relatives such as gorillas or bonobos.

One popular approach to the study of evolution is to compare genome data using bioinformatics (computer-aided) tools. Scientists using these approaches may compare specific proteins, which consist of combinations of 20 universal building blocks, called amino acids.

So far, the bioinformatics tools used to study the evolution of single proteins have assumed that the speed at which different regions of proteins evolve can be modeled with a statistical distribution whose shape is determined by a single variable.

"That assumption, however, does not reflect reality, and it might have led to a large proportion of biased phylogenetic results being published over the last two decades or so," explains Minh Quang Bui, from the Center for Integrative Bioinformatics (CIBIV) and co-author of the study.

A new algorithm allows insights into protein evolution

Arndt von Haeseler, group leader at the Max F. Perutz Laboratories (MFPL) and Lars Jermiin from the Australian National University have now found a revolutionary way of implementing different rates of evolution into bioinformatics models.

It was well known among experts that the popular approach might not capture the complexities of protein evolution. However, the computational cost of using more realistic models was unacceptably high. "We have now developed a fast algorithm that gives us previously unavailable insights into protein evolution - the new tool is likely to have a huge impact on a wide variety of research areas, including on the evolution of pathogens and the dispersal of agricultural pests, " adds Lars Jermiin.

The new program "ModelFinder" will allow more accurate scientific estimates of evolutionary processes. This enhanced understanding of evolution will help us come one step closer to unraveling the mysteries, which are responsible for the great diversity on our planet.
-end-
Service: Nature Methods

"ModelFinder: Fast Model Selection for Accurate Phylogenetic Estimates". Subha Kalyaanamoorthy, Bui Quang Minh, Thomas KF Wong, Arndt von Haeseler, Lars S Jermiin. DOI:10.1038/NMETH.4285 (published online 8 May 2017)

University of Vienna

Related Evolution Articles:

Chemical evolution -- One-pot wonder
Before life, there was RNA: Scientists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich show how the four different letters of this genetic alphabet could be created from simple precursor molecules on early Earth -- under the same environmental conditions.
Catching evolution in the act
Researchers have produced some of the first evidence that shows that artificial selection and natural selection act on the same genes, a hypothesis predicted by Charles Darwin in 1859.
Guppies teach us why evolution happens
New study on guppies shows that animals evolve in response the the environment they create in the absence of predators, rather than in response to the risk of being eaten.
Undercover evolution
Our individuality is encrypted in our DNA, but it is deeper than expected.
Evolution designed by parasites
In 'Invisible Designers: Brain Evolution Through the Lens of Parasite Manipulation,' published in the September 2019 issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology, Marco Del Giudice explores an overlooked aspect of the relationship between parasites and their hosts by systematically discussing the ways in which parasitic behavior manipulation may encourage the evolution of mechanisms in the host's nervous and endocrine systems.
More Evolution News and Evolution Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...