Life at extreme conditions: Neutron scattering studies of biological molecules suggest that evolution selected dynamics
The short review concentrates on recent work performed at the neutrons in biology laboratories of the Institut Laue Langevin and Institut de Biologie Structurale in Grenoble. Extremophile organisms have been discovered that require extreme conditions of temperature, pressure or solvent environment for survival. The existence of such organisms poses a significant challenge in understanding the physical chemistry of their proteins, in view of the great sensitivity of protein structure and stability to the aqueous environment and to external conditions in general. Results of neutron scattering measurements on the dynamics of proteins from extremophile organisms, in vitro as well as in vivo, indicated remarkably how adaptation to extreme conditions involves forces and fluctuation amplitudes that have been selected specifically, suggesting that evolutionary macromolecular selection proceeded via dynamics. The experiments were performed on a halophilic protein, and membrane adapted to high salt, a thermophilic enzyme adapted to high temperature and its mesophilic (adapted to 37°C) homologue; and in vivo for psychrophilic, mesophilic, thermophilic and hyperthermophilic bacteria, adapted respectively to temperatures of 4°C, 37°C, 75°C and 85°C. Further work demonstrated the existence of a water component of exceptionally low mobility in an extreme halophile from the Dead Sea, which is not present in mesophile bacterial cells.
Volume 95, 2021
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