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About Event

Fri 1 Dec 2023


Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)
3700 San Martin Drive
Baltimore, MD 21218


12:00 PM - 1:30 PM EST


The advent of the Artificial Intelligence era has granted us unprecedented access to protein structural data. How did nature discover folded proteins more than 3 billion years ago? How do new protein structures emerge in contemporary biology? To answer these questions, we study the translation system, which is formed by a group of macromolecules that translate the messenger RNA into protein. An essential hypothesis of this research is that some of the mechanisms that prompt the emergence of new protein structures are ongoing and are not fundamentally different from the mechanisms at the Last Universal Common Ancestor. The analysis of translation-related proteins revealed a mechanism that explains local similarities among protein structures, called folds, that are otherwise considered unrelated. We observed that the terminal fusion of two genes can generate new folding landscapes in which the hydrogen bond network of the ancestral fold is restructured. In this model, called creative destruction, new protein structures emerge from ancestral folds. The new folding landscape is not fully independent of those of the ancestral folds, thus some arrangements of secondary structure in the protein may resemble the ancestral fold. Our model has the potential to establish a relative timeline for the emergence of some of the most ancient proteins in biology. Identification of new folds from previously existing ones may allow us to characterize the evolution of protein functions.

Speaker: Claudia Alvarez (Georgia Institute of Technology)


Talks are held in the STScI John N. Bahcall Auditorium. Light lunch (provided) starts at 12pm; talk starts at 12:30pm.

Due to technical difficulties, this lecture will not be streamed live. It will be posted afterward in the STScI webcast archive.

STScI is located in the Muller Building on the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus. View a JHU map and directions.

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