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Nat Rev Genet. 2013 Aug;14(8):559-71. doi: 10.1038/nrg3540.

Evolutionary biochemistry: revealing the historical and physical causes of protein properties.

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Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403, USA.


The repertoire of proteins and nucleic acids in the living world is determined by evolution; their properties are determined by the laws of physics and chemistry. Explanations of these two kinds of causality - the purviews of evolutionary biology and biochemistry, respectively - are typically pursued in isolation, but many fundamental questions fall squarely at the interface of fields. Here we articulate the paradigm of evolutionary biochemistry, which aims to dissect the physical mechanisms and evolutionary processes by which biological molecules diversified and to reveal how their physical architecture facilitates and constrains their evolution. We show how an integration of evolution with biochemistry moves us towards a more complete understanding of why biological molecules have the properties that they do.

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