A new study by researchers of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Toronto suggests a common molecular tool kit shared by organisms across the tree of life and reveals their evolutionary relationships.
The researchers discovered the assembly instructions for nearly 1,000 protein complexes shared by most animals. The study authors identified nearly 1,000 molecular machines critical for the development and survival of species as diverse as sea anemones, worms, mice and humans.
They found identical protein complexes required by the cells that organize the proper formation of the head and eye across the different species. Lead author Edward Marcotte of The University of Texas said, "We were able to construct a sort of assembly diagram of how thousands of different proteins come together to carry out their proper roles inside the cells of most kinds of animals. By understanding how the protein complexes came together across very different organisms, we could find relevancies to humans and human health."
For the study, researchers collected data on the cellular proteins of nine species representing a broad cross-section of the animal kingdom. The species studied included worms, flies, mice, humans, sea urchins, sea anemones, frogs and even slime mold and common baker's yeast.
The researchers said, "We could now predict, with high confidence, more than 1 million protein interactions, which was a 'big step' moving the goal posts forward in terms of protein interaction networks."
The study is published in Nature.