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Ancestor Molecule Produces Two Different Modern Receptors
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Ancestor Molecule Produces Two Different Modern Receptors

July 27, 2010
Scientists have demonstrated how an ancient hormone receptor duplicated itself to form two specific hormonal regulation systems. Through genetic changes, one of the duplicated receptors became specific for cortisol. The other receptor surprisingly bound to aldosterone, a hormone which appeared millions of years later when four-limbed vertebrates developed the ability to produce it. Aldosterone is similarly shaped to the more ancient deoxycorticosterone (DOC), explaining the receptor's preexisting ability to bind with it.

The research, which was supported in part by a National Science Foundation grant, is important scientifically because it shows how computational approaches can be used to infer the structure of ancient molecules, providing us with a window on how evolution has worked. Furthermore, it provided evidence that even highly specific receptor-hormone systems are not irreducibly complex and can come into existence through processes of Darwinian evolution.