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Chance in Evolution$
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Grant Ramsey and Charles H. Pence

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226401744

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226401911.001.0001

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Rolling the Dice Twice: Evolving Reconstructed Ancient Proteins in Extant Organisms

Rolling the Dice Twice: Evolving Reconstructed Ancient Proteins in Extant Organisms

(p.264) Chapter 11 Rolling the Dice Twice: Evolving Reconstructed Ancient Proteins in Extant Organisms
Chance in Evolution

Betul Kacar

University of Chicago Press

Scientists have access to artifacts of evolutionary history, but they have limited ability to infer the exact events that produced today’s living world. An intriguing question to arise from this limitation is whether the evolutionary paths of organisms are dominated by controlled processes, or whether they are inherently random, subject to different outcomes if repeated. Two experimental approaches, ancestral sequence reconstruction and experimental evolution, can be used to recapitulate ancient adaptive pathways and provide insights into the mutational steps that constitute an organism’s genetic heritage. Ancestral sequence reconstruction follows a backwards-from-present-day strategy in which ancestral forms of a gene or protein are reconstructed and studied mechanistically. Experimental evolution, by contrast, follows a forward-from-present-day strategy in which microbial populations are evolved in the laboratory under defined conditions. Here I describe a novel hybrid of these two methods, in which synthetic components constructed from inferred ancestral gene or protein sequences are placed into the genomes of modern organisms that are then experimentally evolved. Through this system, we aim to establish the comparative study of ancient phenotypes as a novel, statistically rigorous methodology with which to explore the impacts of biophysics and chance in evolution within the scope of the Extended Synthesis.

Keywords:   synthetic biology, paleomolecular biochemistry, genetic engineering, evolutionary biochemistry, experimental evolution, elongation factor, molecular evolution, historical contingency

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