11. Kontopoulos, D.-G., Patmanidis, I., Barraclough, T.G., and Pawar, S. (2020). Higher temperatures worsen the effects of mutations on protein stability. bioRxiv.


Understanding whether and how temperature increases alter the effects of mutations on protein stability is crucial for understanding the limits to thermal adaptation by organisms. Currently, it is generally assumed that the stability effects of mutations are independent of temperature. Yet, mutations should become increasingly destabilizing as temperature rises due to the increase in the energy of atoms. Here, by performing an extensive computational analysis on the essential enzyme adenylate kinase in prokaryotes, we show, for the first time, that mutations become more destabilizing with temperature both across and within species. Consistent with these findings, we find that substitution rates of prokaryotes decrease nonlinearly with temperature. Our results suggest that life on Earth likely originated in a moderately thermophilic and thermally fluctuating environment, and indicate that global warming should decrease the per-generation rate of molecular evolution of prokaryotes.

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