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Daily Archives: January 16, 2016

Paper – Evolution of an ancient protein function involved in organized multicellularity in animals

Via eLife – DOI: – January 7, 2016 – eLife 2016;5:e10147 (open source – full text available in PDF)

“For billions of years, life on Earth was made up of single cells. In the lineage that led to animals – and independently in those that led to plants and to fungi – multicellular organisms evolved as cells began to specialize and arrange themselves into tissues and organs. Although the evolution of multicellularity is one of the most important events in the history of animal life, very little is known about the molecular mechanisms by which it took place. To form and maintain organized tissues, cells must coordinate how they divide relative to the position of their neighbours. One important aspect of this process is orientation of the mitotic spindle, a structure inside the dividing cell that distributes the chromosomes —and the genetic material they carry — between the daughter cells. When the spindle is not oriented properly, malformed tissues and cancer can result. In a diverse range of animals, the orientation of the spindle is controlled by an ancient scaffolding protein that links the spindle to “marker” proteins on the edge of the cell. Anderson et al. have now used a technique called ancestral protein reconstruction to investigate how this molecular complex evolved its ability to position the spindle. First, the amino acid sequences of the scaffolding protein’s ancient progenitors, which existed before the origin of the most primitive animals on Earth, were determined. Anderson et al. did this by computationally retracing the evolution of large numbers of present-day scaffolding protein sequences down the tree of life, into the deep past. Living cells were then made to produce the ancient proteins, allowing their properties to be experimentally examined. By experimentally dissecting successive ancestral versions of the scaffolding protein, Anderson et al. deduced how the molecular complex that it anchors came to control spindle orientation. This new ability evolved by a number of “molecular exploitation” events, which repurposed parts of the protein for new roles. The progenitor of the scaffolding protein was actually an enzyme, but the evolution of its spindle-orienting ability can be recapitulated by introducing a single amino acid change that happened many hundreds of millions of years ago. How could a single mutation have conferred such a dramatically new function? Anderson et al. found that the ancient scaffolding protein uses the same part of its surface to bind to the spindle-orienting molecular marker as the ancient enzyme used to bind to its target substrate molecule, and the two partner molecules happen to share certain key chemical properties. This fortuitous resemblance between two unrelated molecules thus set the stage for the simple evolution of a function that is now essential to the complexity of multicellular animals.”

World Bank Report on Digital Technologies – Four Billion Lack Internet Access

“A new World Bank report says that while the internet, mobile phones and other digital technologies are spreading rapidly throughout the developing world, the anticipated digital dividends of higher growth, more jobs, and better public services have fallen short of expectations, and 60 percent of the world’s population remains excluded from the ever-expanding digital economy.… Continue Reading

Long-Term Implications of the 2016 Future Years Defense Program

CBO – “In most years, the Department of Defense (DoD) produces a five-year plan, called the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), associated with the budget that it submits to the Congress. The FYDP describes DoD’s plan for its normal, peacetime activities (corresponding to what is often labeled its base budget). DoD’s current plans are described… Continue Reading

Women’s earnings 83 percent of men’s, but vary by occupation

Bureau of Labor Statistics – “In 2014, women who worked full time in wage and salary jobs had median usual weekly earnings of $719, which was 83 percent of men’s median weekly earnings ($871). Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s varied by occupation. Women’s median usual weekly earnings in construction and extraction occupations ($691)… Continue Reading

New UK digital platform to highlight academic excellence

“The University of Sheffield is one of three leading UK research-intensive universities to set up a new open access digital platform to publish scholarly articles across the academic disciplines. Sheffield has joined forces with the universities of Leeds and York to establish the White Rose University Press (WRUP) which opened for submissions this week.… Continue Reading