September 11, 2008

Biochemist Finds Clue to Evolution

A researcher at Florida State University says he's found a mechanism in proteins that helps explain evolution at molecular levels.

Wei Yang said he and colleagues from FSU, Duke University and Brandeis University have produced models of the enzyme inosine monophosphate dehrydrogenase, which is responsible for initiating certain metabolic processes in DNA and RNA, the university said Wednesday in a news release.

"In creating these simulations of IMPDH, we observed something that hadn't been seen before," Yang said. "Previously, enzymes were believed to have a single 'pathway' through which they deliver catalytic agents to biological cells in order to bring about metabolic changes. But with IMPDH, we determined that there was a second pathway that also was used to cause these chemical transformations."

Yang said the second pathway is an evolutionary vestige left over from an ancient enzyme that evolved over eons into modern-day IMPDH.

The findings are published in the journal PLoS Biology.