Research Images As Art 2012/13 Gallery

The Evolution of Structure

Entry No s218.jpg 
Dr Tony Lewis, Structural and Molecular Biology

Proteins are the functional building-blocks of life; genes are their recipes. Genes code for proteins with particular structures that allow them to perform particular functions. Since structure is critical to function, to decode life we must understand its catalogue of structures.

In Professor Orengo's group, we work on the CATH database, which involves classifying proteins by structure and identifying "superfamilies" - groups of proteins sharing a common ancestor.

These six images represent recent investigations into superposing all representative structures within entire superfamilies. This often highlights common structural cores that natural selection has preserved across the superfamily, despite the underlying DNA sequences having diverged beyond all recognition over the billions of years since they split from their common ancestor.

This helps identify highly conserved positions that are critical for the protein's function. By defining the structural core we can also elucidate how variant regions encode the genome's wide array of functions.


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