Chapter 28 : The Library of Maynard-Smith

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In this chapter, the author talks about her search of the evolution and sequencing of proteins. She has spent years searching for meaning in one of the virtual rooms of the Library of Mendel, the Maynard-Smith Collection, which houses the set of all possible protein sequences. Meaningful proteins-proteins that do something-are extremely rare, because there are far more ways to be meaningless. Each sequence is surrounded by its one-mutation neighbors, that is, by all the proteins that differ from it by a change in a single amino acid letter. Maynard-Smith set up his library with as many dimensions as there are ways to make a mutation. The author and her students have spent the better part of 20 years taking sometimes straight and sometimes slightly crooked paths in Maynard-Smith’s library of proteins. Most of the possible mutations do not have a big effect, as far as the author can tell with her limited eyes. And, of course, some of the mutations can greatly damage or even destroy a protein (and remove it from the gene pool). We have to discover interesting new proteins by making them and seeing what they do. The author has found that a walk in Maynard-Smith’s collection is a wonderful way to discover these new proteins.

Citation: Arnold F. 2012. The Library of Maynard-Smith, p 203-208. In Kolter R, Maloy S (ed), Microbes and Evolution. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818470.ch28
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