Welcome to the Kacar Lab!
The Kacar Lab investigates key questions regarding molecular mechanisms of evolution and the origins of life. We are interested in understanding how the ancestral behaviors of proteins and their host systems change through time. The overall goal of our work is to assess the possible environmental impacts of ancient enzymes on global-scale signatures that record biological activity.
What do we aspire to know?
- 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?
How do we travel in time?
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.
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.
- Resurrecting ancestral genes in bacteria to interpret ancient biosignatures
- 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)
Listen to Betul talk about our recent research:
(Produced by Yvonne Stapp, Belmont Media and WGBH Forum Network)