DNA From Prehistoric Yeast Cells Reconstructed
How does evolution innovate? We exist because our ancestors have had the ability to adapt successfully to changes in their environment; however, merely examining present-day organisms can limit our understanding of the actual evolutionary processes because the crucial events have been masked by the passage of aeons — what we need is a time machine. Scientists have done the next-best thing; by reconstructing DNA and proteins from prehistoric yeast cells, they were able to directly examine the evolutionary forces that have acted over the last 100 million years to shape modern-day enzymes — biological catalysts that enable organisms to manipulate molecules to their will.
The scientists set out to explore how new genes emerge, how they contribute to the survival of the evolving organism, and how, after a humble start, evolution then refines the function of new genes and hones the efficiency of the enzymes that they encode. The researchers detailed their results in a paper published in the online open access journal PLOS Biology.