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The emergence of bioenergetic diversity in prokaryotes


Prokaryotes are characterised by an amazing metabolic diversity, which allows them to persist in diverse and often extreme habitats. Some are able to use light or organic matter to harvest energy and fix carbon, while others utilise chemo- or lithotrophic modes which use the
redox potential of molecules found in their particular environment to harness energy for their survival. Molecular evolution studies, coupled to data from the geologic record, indicate that the variety of bioenergetic pathways seen in extant prokaryotes originated within the first
billion years of life on Earth. While each pathway has been studied in considerable detail in isolation, not much is known about their relative evolutionary relationships. How did this metabolic diversity evolve? Did each pathway evolve independently or did they all evolve from a
common ancestral metabolic mode? As in organismal evolution, it is likely that parts of pre-existing pathways were co-opted to evolve into new pathways. The aim is to test this hypothesis through comparative genomics and phylogenetic analysis of the core protein complexes
involved in energy metabolism. Apart from fermentation, most bioenergetic pathways have a similar general structure, with an electron transport chain composed of protein complexes acting as electron donors and acceptors, as well as a central cytochrome complex, mobile
electron carriers, and an ATP synthase. Therefore, the different protein complexes that participate in distinct electron transport chains will be compared to each other, to establish their homology and evolutionary relationships. This analysis will yield insights into the origin of key
innovations and the evolutionary flexibility of electron carriers, with potential applications in microbial fuel cell technology. A database to facilitate the comparison of bioenergetic pathways will also be constructed, and metagenomic data will be examined for the identification of
novel bioenergetic enzymes.

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Soranou Efesiou 4
115 27 Athina

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Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Dimitris Raptis (Mr.)
EU contribution
€ 215 701,20