The evolution and evolutionary consequences of marginal thermostability in proteins

Richard A Goldstein


When we seek to explain the characteristics of living systems in their evolutionary context, we are often interested in understanding how and why certain properties arose through evolution, and how these properties then affected the continuing evolutionary process. This endeavor has been assisted by the use of simple computational models that have properties characteristic of natural living systems but allow simulations over evolutionary timescales with full transparency. We examine a model of the evolution of a gene under selective pressure to code for a protein that exists in a prespecified folded state at a given growth temperature. We observe the emergence of proteins with modest stabilities far below those possible with the model, with a denaturation temperature tracking the simulation temperature, despite the absence of selective pressure for such marginal stability. This demonstrates that neither observations of marginally stable proteins, nor even instances where increased stability interferes with function, provide evidence that marginal stability is an adaptation. Instead the marginal stability is the result of a balance between predominantly destabilizing mutations and selection that shifts depending on effective pop...Continue Reading


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