Inferring Ancient Proteins: What They Tell Us, How We Know They Are Accurate, and Their Use Beyond Astrobiology
When: September 24, 2012 11AM PDT
This seminar will focus on our previous and recent efforts that attempt to resurrect in the laboratory ancient proteins as inferred from evolutionary analyses of modern (extant) sequences placed in a phylogenetic context. Ancestral Sequence Reconstruction (ASR) of disparate protein families has revealed clues about ancient life that are consistent with particular geological studies. The seminar will also acknowledge the elephant sitting in the ASR room – how can we possibly know whether our ancestral proteins consist of accurate amino acid sequences. To address this, we have developed an experimental system to benchmark ASR algorithms by generating an artificial phylogeny in the laboratory using fluorescent proteins. Lastly, we will briefly discuss how ancient proteins can be exploited by the commercial and biomedical sectors as a practical extension of fundamental astrobiology research.