Researchers create billion-year-old bacteria and trace its evolution

November 1, 2011
Evolution: University of Waikato research scientist Dr Jo Hobbs holds the one billion year old Bacillus bacterial enzyme.

( -- University of Waikato researchers have managed to create a billion-year-old bacterial enzyme and then trace its evolution through history, to the modern day.

Associate Professor Vic Arcus and postdoctoral research scientist Dr. Jo Hobbs have used new to make accurate predictions about the size, shape and composition of proteins from ancient .

They then coaxed modern bacteria into making these ancient proteins for them, creating a billion-year-old Bacillus bacteria .

“We’ve been able to make a billion-year-old protein enzyme that actually works in the lab,” says researcher Jo Hobbs.

“The billion-year-old enzyme is from a Precambrian ancestor of a modern bacterium called Bacillus,” explains Dr. Arcus.

“To our surprise, the ancient enzyme is very stable at high temperatures and very, very active - seven times more active than a comparable modern enzyme.”

“This means that the Bacillus ancestor most probably lived in a hot, inhospitable environment a billion years ago.”

Tracing Evolution

Along with the billion-year-old enzyme, the team created enzymes that trace the of the organisms from one billion years ago to the present day.

They tested the optimal operating temperature of each enzyme to get an insight into the changing temperate of the environment of the bacteria over time.

“The optimum temperature of the billion-year-old organism is 70 degrees. But during the evolution of these bacteria, they have adapted to cooling temperatures. Today we find Bacillus bacteria in nearly every possible environment – hot pools, garden soil, cool lakes, even in Antarctica,” says Dr Arcus.

“They are the weeds of the bacterial world. Their ability to adapt to a great range of different environments over such long periods of time has been their success on planet Earth.”

The team have had their findings published in the Journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

Explore further: Scottish rocks reveal key point in evolution occurred 400 million years earlier

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2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 01, 2011
Misleading headline, article doesn't mention what kind of enzyme it was, reference to a temperature without mentioning which scale was being used. Also claim their magical program spits out the blueprint of ancient enzymes without mentioning it starts with the blueprints of the same enzyme from many related organisms.b A poor article all around.
1 / 5 (4) Nov 01, 2011
How do they know the ancient bacteria was a billion years old? Are they sure it wasn't 980 million years? A lot can happen in 20m years. Fact is the "age" is simply sheer speculation, no matter how "scientifically" it was derived/calculated etc. The assumptions that go into determining such an age leave a lot to be desired.

As barakn said: completely misleading article headline. Bait and switch of the first order.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 01, 2011
In this case, there appears to be only one significant digit in the number they use, so when they say "one billion" they mean somewhere between half a billion and a billion and a half.
4.3 / 5 (6) Nov 02, 2011

How do the priests know the ancient Earth is 6000 years old? Are they sure it wasn't 6001 years? A lot can happen in 1 year. Fact is the "age" is simply sheer speculation, no matter how "religiously" it was derived/calculated etc. The assumptions that go into determining such an age leave a lot to be desired.

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