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

November 1, 2011, University of Waikato
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: Researchers resurrect ancient enzymes to reveal conditions of early life on Earth

Related Stories

Scientists turn the tables on infectious bacteria

December 14, 2010

A Newcastle University research team has made a significant advance in the ongoing fight against bacterial infections - by turning the infectious microbe's own weapon against itself.

New protein structure model to inhibit cancer

July 29, 2011

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire have developed a new structural model of a protein, which makes it possible to develop more effective drugs to target diseases such as cancer, heart disease and influenza.

Slower evolving bacteria win in the end

March 18, 2011

( -- Scientists in the US have found bacteria that evolve slowly are more likely to survive in the long term than those evolving more quickly.

Recommended for you

Duplicate genes help animals resolve sexual conflict

February 19, 2018

Duplicate copies of a gene shared by male and female fruit flies have evolved to resolve competing demands between the sexes. New genetic analysis by researchers at the University of Chicago describes how these copies have ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2 / 5 (4) 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 (2) 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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.