Scientists claim to have created a billion-year-old bacterial enzyme and then trace its evolution through history to the modern day.
A team at Waikato University has used new computational techniques to make accurate predictions about the size, shape and composition of proteins from ancient bacteria, 'Journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution' reported.
The scientists then coaxed modern bacteria into making these ancient proteins for them, creating a billion-year-old Bacillus bacteria enzyme. "We've been able to make a billion-year-old protein enzyme that actually works in laboratory," said team member Jo Hobbs.
Added team leader Prof Vic Arcus: "The billion-year-old enzyme is from a Precambrian ancestor of a modern bacterium called Bacillus. To our surprise, the ancient enzyme is very stable at high temperatures and very, very active - seven times more active than a comparable modern enzyme.
"This means that the Bacillus ancestor most probably lived in a hot, inhospitable environment a billion years ago."
Along with the billion-year-old enzyme, the team created enzymes that trace the evolution of the organisms from one billion years ago to the present day.
They tested the optimal operating temperature of each enzyme to get an insight into the changing temperate of the environment of the bacteria over time.
"The optimum temperature of the billion-year-old organism is 70 degrees. But during the evolution of these bacteria, they have adapted to cooling temperatures.
"Today we find Bacillus bacteria in nearly every possible environment - hot pools, garden soil, cool lakes, even in Antarctica. Their ability to adapt to a great range of different environments over such long periods of time has been their success on planet Earth," said Dr Arcus.