Abstract: Niche construction nominally describes how organisms can form their own environments, increasing their capacity to adapt to their surroundings. It is hypothesized that the formation of the first cell as ‘internal’ Niche Construction was the foundation for life, and that subsequent niche constructions were iterative exaptations of that event. The first instantation of niche construction has been faithfully adhered to by returning to the unicellular state, suggesting that the life cycle is zygote to zygote, not adult to adult as is commonly held. The consequent interactions between niche construction and epigenetic inheritance provide a highly robust, interactive, mechanistic way of thinking about evolution being determined by initial conditions rather than merely by chance mutation and selection. This novel perspective offers an opportunity to reappraise the processes involved in evolution mechanistically, allowing for scientifically testable hypotheses rather than relying on metaphors, dogma, teleology and tautology.
Abstract: Life originated from unicellular organisms by circumventing the Second Law of Thermodynamics using the First Principles of Physiology, namely negentropy, chemiosmosis and homeostatic regulation of calcium and lipids. It is hypothesized that multicellular organisms are merely contrivances or tools, used by unicellular organisms as agents for the acquisition of epigenetic inheritance. The First Principles of Physiology, which initially evolved in unicellular organisms are the exapted constraints that maintain, sustain and perpetuate that process. To ensure fidelity to this mechanism, we must return to the first principles of the unicellular state as the determinants of the primary level of selection pressure during the life cycle. The power of this approach is reflected by examples of its predictive value. This perspective on life is a “game changer”, mechanistically rendering transparent many dogmas, teleologies and tautologies that constrain the current descriptive view of Biology.
Abstract: Flightin is a myosin binding protein present in Pancrustacea. In Drosophila, flightin is expressed in the indirect flight muscles (IFM), where it is required for the flexural rigidity, structural integrity, and length determination of thick filaments. Comparison of flightin sequences from multiple Drosophila species revealed a tripartite organization indicative of three functional domains subject to different evolutionary constraints. We use atomic force microscopy to investigate the functional roles of the N-terminal domain and the C-terminal domain that show different patterns of sequence conservation. Thick filaments containing a C-terminal domain truncated flightin (flnΔC44) are significantly shorter (2.68 ± 0.06 μm; p < 0.005) than thick filaments containing a full length flightin (fln+; 3.21 ± 0.05 μm) and thick filaments containing an N-terminal domain truncated flightin (flnΔN62; 3.21 ± 0.06 μm). Persistence length was significantly reduced in flnΔN62 (418 ± 72 μm; p < 0.005) compared to fln+ (1386 ± 196μm) and flnΔC44(1128 ± 193 μm). Statistical polymer chain analysis revealed that the C-terminal domain fulfills a secondary role in thick filament bending propensity. Our results indicate that the flightin amino and carboxy terminal domains make distinct contributions to thick filament biomechanics. We propose these distinct roles arise from the interplay between natural selection and sexual selection given IFM’s dual role in flight and courtship behaviors.
Abstract: Two major obstacles hinder the application of evolutionary theory to the origin of eukaryotes. The first is more apparent than real—the endosymbiosis that led to the mitochondrion is often described as “non-Darwinian” because it deviates from the incremental evolution championed by the modern synthesis. Nevertheless, endosymbiosis can be accommodated by a multi-level generalization of evolutionary theory, which Darwin himself pioneered. The second obstacle is more serious—all of the major features of eukaryotes were likely present in the last eukaryotic common ancestor thus rendering comparative methods ineffective. In addition to a multi-level theory, the development of rigorous, sequence-based phylogenetic and comparative methods represents the greatest achievement of modern evolutionary theory. Nevertheless, the rapid evolution of major features in the eukaryotic stem group requires the consideration of an alternative framework. Such a framework, based on the contingent nature of these evolutionary events, is developed and illustrated with three examples: the putative intron proliferation leading to the nucleus and the cell cycle; conflict and cooperation in the origin of eukaryotic bioenergetics; and the inter-relationship between aerobic metabolism, sterol synthesis, membranes, and sex. The modern synthesis thus provides sufficient scope to develop an evolutionary framework to understand the origin of eukaryotes.
Abstract: Natural Selection describes how species have evolved differentially, but it is descriptive, non-mechanistic. What mechanisms does Nature use to accomplish this feat? One known way in which ancient natural forces affect development, phylogeny and physiology is through gravitational effects that have evolved as mechanotransduction, seen in the lung, kidney and bone, linking as molecular homologies to skin and brain. Tracing the ontogenetic and phylogenetic changes that have facilitated mechanotransduction identifies specific homologous cell-types and functional molecular markers for lung homeostasis that reveal how and why complex physiologic traits have evolved from the unicellular to the multicellular state. Such data are reinforced by their reverse-evolutionary patterns in chronic degenerative diseases. The physiologic responses of model organisms like Dictyostelium and yeast to gravity provide deep comparative molecular phenotypic homologies, revealing mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) as the final common pathway for vertical integration of vertebrate physiologic evolution; mTOR integrates calcium/lipid epistatic balance as both the proximate and ultimate positive selection pressure for vertebrate physiologic evolution. The commonality of all vertebrate structure-function relationships can be reduced to calcium/lipid homeostatic regulation as the fractal unit of vertebrate physiology, demonstrating the primacy of the unicellular state as the fundament of physiologic evolution.
Abstract: Shear force exerted on uropathogenic Escherichia coli adhering to surfaces makes type-1 fimbriae stretch out like springs to catch on to mannosidic receptors. This mechanism is initiated by a disruption of the quaternary interactions between the lectin and the pilin of the two-domain FimH adhesin and transduces allosterically to the mannose-binding pocket of FimH to increase its affinity. Mannose-specific adhesion of 14 E. coli pathovars was measured under flow, using surface plasmon resonance detection on functionalized graphene-coated gold interfaces. Increasing the shear had important differential consequences on bacterial adhesion. Adherent-invasive E. coli, isolated from the feces and biopsies of Crohn’s disease patients, consistently changed their adhesion behavior less under shear and displayed lower SPR signals, compared to E. coli opportunistically infecting the urinary tract, intestines or loci of knee and hip prostheses. We exemplified this further with the extreme behaviors of the reference strains UTI89 and LF82. Whereas their FimA major pilins have identical sequences, FimH of LF82 E. coli is marked by the Thr158Pro mutation. Positioned in the inter-domain region known to carry hot spots of mutations in E. coli pathotypes, residue 158 is indicated to play a structural role in the allosteric regulation of type-1 fimbriae-mediated bacterial adhesion.