Université de Strasbourg

Fellows seminar - Playing evolution, or learning to live without (really) important proteins

November 24, 2022
From 15:30 until 17:00
MISHA, Strasbourg

By Alexandre Smirnov, 2020 Fellow

Everyone has now heard of RNA (ribonucleic acid). It is an essential part of gene expression in all living beings, from bacteria to humans. The existence and functions of RNA molecules in the cell are regulated by so-called “RNA-binding” proteins. Some of these proteins are very important as they control large-scale regulatory networks (a kind of ‘nervous system’ of the cell) or keep in check key molecular machineries of life. Not surprisingly, organisms stick to such proteins and definitely do not want to lose them, since their lack results in serious physiological problems and compromises organismal fitness (as Darwin called it), dooming the unfortunate beings to elimination by natural selection.

But what if we give them a chance – and enough time – to come up with alternative solutions? For example, could a bacterium learn to live without such very important proteins? Would it ever be able to thrive again? And if yes, how would it achieve this? Experimental evolution gives an answer. It shows us how one can circumvent the loss of apparently indispensable genes and invent a new form of normal, happy life, when everything already seemed to be lost.


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