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Journal of Molecular Evolution

M J Madison-Villar, Cheng Sun, Nelson C Lau, Matthew L Settles, Rachel Lockridge Mueller
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
December 2, 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Juli Peretó
Synthetic Biology is currently presented as an emergent field involving the application of engineering principles to living matter. However, the scientific pursuit of making life in a laboratory is not new and has been the ultimate, if somewhat distant, aim of the origin-of-life research program for many years. Actually, over a century ago, the idea that the synthesis of life was indispensable to fully understand its nature already appealed to material scientists and evolutionists alike. Jacques Loeb proposed a research program from an engineering standpoint, following a synthetic method (experimental abiogenesis) and based on his mechanist vision of living beings, which he considered true chemical machines...
November 30, 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Antonio Lazcano
The heterotrophic origin of life proposed by A. I. Oparin in the 1920s was part of a Darwinian framework that assumed that living organisms were the historical outcome of a gradual transformation of lifeless matter. Eighty years ago, he presented a much more detailed scheme of the processes that may have led to life. As argued here, the development of the heterotrophic theory has been shaped by an entangled scenario in which a number of technical and scientific developments concur, as well as non-scientific issues including the Stalinist period and the tensions of the Cold War atmosphere...
November 28, 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Ryutaro Furukawa, Mizuho Nakagawa, Takuya Kuroyanagi, Shin-Ichi Yokobori, Akihiko Yamagishi
The three-domain phylogenetic system of life has been challenged, particularly with regard to the position of Eukarya. The recent increase of known genome sequences has allowed phylogenetic analyses of all extant organisms using concatenated sequence alignment of universally conserved genes; these data supported the two-domain hypothesis, which place eukaryal species as ingroups of the Domain Archaea. However, the origin of Eukarya is complicated: the closest archaeal species to Eukarya differs in single-gene phylogenetic analyses depending on the genes...
November 26, 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
S Andrew Inkpen, W Ford Doolittle
The concept of homology has a long history, during much of which the issue has been how to reconcile similarity and common descent when these are not coextensive. Although thinking molecular phylogeneticists have learned not to say "percent homology," the problems are deeper than that and unresolved.
November 21, 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Neeraja Sankaran
Thirty years ago, molecular biologist Walter Gilbert published his RNA world hypothesis, which posited that early in evolution living systems were composed entirely of RNA. Proposed in the immediate wake of the discovery that certain RNA molecules were capable of catalyzing biological reactions, the hypothesis ascribed both of life's essential functions, namely carrying information and catalysis-respectively, performed by DNA and proteins in most modern life systems-to RNA, which were labeled as ribozymes. In the years since its inception, the RNA world has been greeted with equal parts enthusiasm and opposition from the origins of life research community, of which Gilbert neither was, nor really became, a part...
November 19, 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Jordan Debono, Bing Xie, Aude Violette, Rudy Fourmy, Marc Jaeger, Bryan G Fry
The molecular origin of waglerin peptides has remained enigmatic despite their industrial application in skin cream products to paralyse facial muscles and thus reduce the incidence of wrinkles. Here we show that these neurotoxic peptides are the result of de novo evolution within the prepro region of the C-type natriuretic peptide gene in Tropidolaemus venoms, at a site distinct from the domain encoding for the natriuretic peptide. It is the same region that yielded the azemiopsin peptides from Azemiops feae, indicative of a close relationship of this toxin gene between these two genera...
November 18, 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Miguel Angel Fuertes, José Ramón Rodrigo, Carlos Alonso
The analysis of a large number of human and mouse genes codifying for a populated cluster of transmembrane proteins revealed that some of the genes significantly vary in their primary nucleotide sequence inter-species and also intra-species. In spite of that divergence and of the fact that all these genes share a common parental function we asked the question of whether at DNA level they have some kind of common compositional structure, not evident from the analysis of their primary nucleotide sequence. To reveal the existence of gene clusters not based on primary sequence relationships we have analyzed 13574 human and 14047 mouse genes by the composon-clustering methodology...
November 3, 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Omar Navarro Leija, Sanju Varghese, Mira V Han
Evolutionary constraint for insertions and deletions (indels) is not necessarily equal to constraint for nucleotide substitutions for any given region of a genome. Knowing the variation in indel-specific evolutionary rates across the sequence will aid our understanding of evolutionary constraints on indels, and help us infer how indels have contributed to the evolution of the sequence. However, unlike for nucleotide substitutions, there has been no phylogenetic method that can statistically infer significantly different rates of indels across the sequence space independent of substitution rates...
October 21, 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Rosa Calvello, Maria A Panaro, Rosaria Salvatore, Vincenzo Mitolo, Antonia Cianciulli
The "canonical" introns begin by the dinucleotide GT and end by the dinucleotide AG. GT, together with a few downstream nucleotides, and AG, with a few of the immediately preceding nucleotides, are thought to be the strongest splicing signals (5'ss and 3'ss, respectively). We examined the composition of the intronic initial and terminal hexanucleotides of the mitochondrial solute carrier genes (SLC25A's) of zebrafish, chicken, mouse, and human. These genes are orthologous and we selected the transcripts in which the arrangement of exons and introns was superimposable in the species considered...
October 20, 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Massimo Di Giulio
The coevolution theory of the origin of the genetic code maintains that the biosynthetic relationships between amino acids co-evolved with the genetic code organization. In other words, the metabolism of amino acids co-evolved with the organization of the genetic code because the biosynthetic pathways of amino acids occurred on tRNA-like molecules. Thus, a heterotrophic origin of amino acids-also only of those involved in the early phase of the structuring of the genetic code-would seem to contradict the main postulate of the coevolution theory...
October 14, 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
M J Madison-Villar, Cheng Sun, Nelson C Lau, Matthew L Settles, Rachel Lockridge Mueller
Most of the largest vertebrate genomes are found in salamanders, a clade of amphibians that includes 686 species. Salamander genomes range in size from 14 to 120 Gb, reflecting the accumulation of large numbers of transposable element (TE) sequences from all three TE classes. Although DNA loss rates are slow in salamanders relative to other vertebrates, high levels of TE insertion are also likely required to explain such high TE loads. Across the Tree of Life, novel TE insertions are suppressed by several pathways involving small RNA molecules...
October 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Matthew J Jenny, Samantha L Payton, David A Baltzegar, Jeffrey D Lozier
Mechanisms by which organisms genetically adapt to environmental conditions are of fundamental importance to studies of evolutionary biology and environmental physiology. Natural selection acts on existing genetic variation leading to adaptation through selection of new mutations that confer beneficial advantages to populations. The American oyster, Crassostrea virginica, is an excellent model to investigate interactions between environmental and ecological factors as driving forces for natural selection. A great example of this is represented by the diversity of C...
October 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
John M Braverman, Matthew B Hamilton, Brent A Johnson
There are marked variations among loci and among lineages in rates of nucleotide substitution. The generation time hypothesis (GTH) is a neutral explanation for substitution rate heterogeneity that has genomewide application, predicting that species with shorter generation times accumulate DNA sequence substitutions faster than species with longer generation times do since faster genome replication provides more opportunities for mutations to occur and reach fixation by genetic drift. Relatively few studies have rigorously evaluated the GTH in plants, and there are numerous alternative hypotheses for plant substitution rate variation...
September 3, 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Michael Yarus
Given two primordial conditions that seem likely to be common, near-ideal reactions for evolutionary progress are realized. These requisites are sporadic availability of pooled reactants and evolutionarily useful products within a pool's repertoire. These intrinsically optimizing circumstances function without genetics, and therefore can help evolve a first genetic system. This process is termed chance utility.
September 1, 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
J Baz Jackson
The hypothesis that a natural pH gradient across inorganic membranes lying between the ocean and fluid issuing from hydrothermal alkali vents provided energy to drive chemical reactions during the origin of life has an attractive parallel with chemiosmotic ATP synthesis in present-day organisms. However, arguments raised in this review suggest that such natural pH gradients are unlikely to have played a part in life's origin. There is as yet no evidence for thin inorganic membranes holding sharp pH gradients in modern hydrothermal alkali vents at Lost City near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge...
August 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Niccolo Caldararo
A number of recent articles have appeared on the Denisova fossil remains and attempts to produce DNA sequences from them. One of these recently appeared in Science by Vernot et al. (Science 352:235-239, 2016). We would like to advance an alternative interpretation of the data presented. One concerns the problem of contamination/degradation of the determined DNA sequenced. Just as the publication of the first Neandertal sequence included an interpretation that argued that Neandertals had not contributed any genes to modern humans, the Denisovan interpretation has considerable influence on ideas regarding human evolution...
August 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Jae Young Choi, Charles F Aquadro
In Drosophila, many studies have examined the short- or long-term evolution occurring across synonymous sites. Few, however, have examined both the recent and long-term evolution to gain a complete view of this selection. Here we have analyzed Drosophila ananassae DNA polymorphism and divergence data using several different methods, and have identified evidence of positive selection favoring preferred codons in both recent and long-term evolutionary time scale. Further in D. ananassae, the strength of selection for preferred codons was stronger on the X chromosome compared to the autosomes...
August 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Christiane Paul, Frank Kirschbaum, Victor Mamonekene, Ralph Tiedemann
Voltage-gated sodium channels, Nav1, play a crucial role in the generation and propagation of action potentials and substantially contribute to the shape of their rising phase. The electric organ discharge (EOD) of African weakly electric fish (Mormyroidea) is the sum of action potentials fired from all electrocytes of the electric organ at the same time and hence voltage-gated sodium channels are one factor-together with the electrocyte's morphology and innervation pattern-that determines the properties of these EODs...
August 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
Geoffrey S Diemer, Kenneth M Stedman
The Microviridae are increasingly becoming recognized as one of the most globally ubiquitous and highly diverse virus families, and as such, provide an advantageous model for studying virus evolution and adaptation. Here, we utilize microvirus sequences from diverse physiochemical environments, including novel sequences from a high-temperature acidic lake, to chart the outcome of natural selection in the main structural protein of the virus. Each icosahedral microvirus virion is composed of sixty identical capsid proteins that interact along twofold, threefold and fivefold symmetry axis interfaces to encapsidate a small, circular, single-stranded DNA genome...
August 2016: Journal of Molecular Evolution
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