Welcome to the Kacar Lab!
The Kacar Lab investigates key questions regarding molecular mechanisms of evolution, the origins of life and the distribution of life throughout our universe. We are interested in understanding life’s working strategies at the molecular level and how the ancestral behaviors of proteins and their host systems change through time.
We use a new approach that reconstructs ancient DNA using phylogenetics, then we engineer this ancient DNA inside microbial genomes, and finally we reanimate these ancient sequences as revenant genes to produce ancient enzymes with phenotypes that can be studied. Our overarching goal is to use this paleophenotype reconstruction method to interpret ancient biosignatures. We ask:
- What can the phenotypes of inferred ancient proteins tell us about the origins of critical metabolic pathways?
- How can we reconstruct ancient biological functions representing key evolutionary innovations of our planet’s past?
- Did life in the past function or evolve similarly to life today?
To answer these questions, we attempt to combine evidence from the Earth’s environmental and biological past. We use revenant genes as a proxy to understand critical elements of life’s origins and early evolution.
- Experimental Evolution of Escherichia coli Harboring an Ancient Translation Protein
- Constraining the timing of the Great Oxidation Event within the Rubisco phylogenetic tree (New Scientist coverage) (NASA coverage)
- Paleophenotype Reconstruction Of Carbon Fixation Proteins As A Window Into Historic Biological States (BioRxiv)
Listen to Betul talk about our recent research:
(Produced by Yvonne Stapp, Belmont Media and WGBH Forum Network)