Some mistakes turn out to be beneficial. And life, or its survival, has always thrived on them. Add a few mutations to a genome, drench it in time, and you have the driving force of evolution. Transposons - these bits of DNA that are able to skip along genomes - are just one kind of mutation that has contributed hugely towards life's unfolding. Not so long ago, researchers discovered remnants of a well-known transposon, made up of so-called mariner elements, glued aside another gene whose product is a histone methyltransferase. This chimeric gene, baptised SETMAR, expresses a product whose roles are similar to both of its parts. But with a little twist. A twist which, in the past 50 million years, has contributed to human evolution, and is due to the protein it expresses: histone-lysine N-methyltransferase SETMAR.
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Snapshot : cytochrome C
There is no life without energy. Much in the way a car needs petrol to run, we also need something essential to keep us going. And it is called adenosine tri-phosphate or ATP. ATP runs through every nook and cranny of our body to keep our heart pumping, our fingers moving and our thoughts alive. But - like petrol - we do not get it for free. We have to make it. So, in the great majority of our cells, we have powerhouses - known as mitochondria - that spend their time synthesizing ATP and distributing it where need be. Not surprisingly, hordes of proteins are involved in this process, one of which has been known for decades: cytochrome C.
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