Research ideas in divergence of genes and proteins

ProteinsIn spite of advances in our understanding of the affect of mutations on protein structure, function and evolution, many aspects of protein are still unclear.

Researchers know that if we will work on actual adaptations in laboratory to get the knowledge of protein mutations and their effects, then it would be more conclusive and interesting than the model cases. So, it would be more effective research to devise new ways to work at laboratory level than the computational level.

Scientists have designed and/or described a large number of mechanisms and models for the divergence of one gene to two paralogous genes. Some of these mechanisms showed that different timings and selection forces act on the initial gene, leading to paralogous genes. However, the significance and practicability of these models are somewhat unconfirmed.

Scientists worked on genes and found that the differences in sequence and/or function can occur without duplication of genes. As a matter of fact, sequence differences (difference in the order of molecular elements) occur continually leading to the formation of orthologous genes, which have same functions. The idea that sequence differences are not linked to adaptation for new functions is still to work on. Furthermore, exploring the sequence changes driving compartmental adjustment, i.e. in different parts of the body, would be more informative than the sequence variation driving changes in action itself.

According to researchers, organisms on the whole are more affected by mutations than the component proteins and research on the similarities and differences in the distributions of the fitness effects of these mutations on a single protein and in an intact organism can be done. Moreover, it is very difficult to study fitness effects of mutations in a cellular environment than in isolated proteins. So it could be a good point to study the fitness effects in indigenous conditions and the effect of different mechanisms such as that of buffering, protein trafficking and clearance on the fate of mutated variants.

Mutational paths of different proteins and genes can also be studied and predicted through the reconstruction of ancestral genes and proteins.

According to researchers, the effects and responses of protein’s structure to mutations are not known. Moreover, the role of epistasis, i.e. disappearance of the characteristics marked by one gene due to the activity of another gene, in directing the mechanism of divergence can be better understood by the mutations underlining different divergence paths.


Soskine, M., & Tawfik, D. S. (2010). Mutational effects and the evolution of new protein functions. Nature Reviews Genetics, 11, 572-582.

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