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23 January 2007

In "Current Biology" Today: Unique Proof of the Theory of Smooth Evolutionary Transitions

In conjunction with colleagues from Basel, Suat Özbek and Thomas Holstein of the Department of Molecular Evolution, University of Heidelberg, have demonstrated a global structural protein switch in collagens of the fresh-water polyp Hydra induced by two mutational steps (in today's issue of the Current Biology journal) — Unique proof of the theory of smooth transitions in the evolution of complex features in living organisms

The development of complex features such as new protein structures by the process of evolution is largely elusive. While the protagonists of an intelligent design theory like the American scientist Michael J. Behe deny the invention of complex protein structures by a small number of mutational steps, scientists working in evolutionary biology have found indications for bridge states combining original and novel features. So far, however, this process has only been demonstrated by the accumulation of artificial mutations that merely simulate evolution.

In conjunction with researchers at the Biozentrum in Basel, Suat Özbek and Thomas Holstein of the Department of Molecular Evolution at the University of Heidelberg have now detected a global structural switch in collagens of the fresh-water polyp Hydra induced by two mutational steps. Here, the exchange of one single amino acid has produced a bridge state that displays both the original and a completely new protein structure. This natural process can be retraced experimentally, thus providing a unique proof of the theory of smooth transitions in the evolution of complex features in living organisms.

Sebastian Meier, Pernille R. Jensen, Charles N. David, Jarrod Chapman, Thomas W. Holstein, Stephan Grzesiek, Suat Özbek : "Continuous molecular evolution of protein domain structures by single amino acid changes" Current Biology, 23 January 2007

Please address any inquiries to:
HD Dr. Suat Özbek
Institute of Zoology
University of Heidelberg
Molecular Evolution and Genomics Department
Im Neuenheimer Feld 230
69120 Heidelberg
phone: 06221/545638, fax: 545678
soezbek@zoo.uni-heidelberg.de

Prof. Dr. Thomas W. Holstein
Institute of Zoology
University of Heidelberg
Molecular Evolution and Genomics Department
phone: 06221/545679, fax: 545678
holstein@uni-hd.de

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317
michael.schwarz@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de
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