- The Loom
Resurrecting Evolution to Solve an 800-Million-Year-Old Puzzle
This is a story of about how the parts of a puzzle locked into place 800 million years ago. The puzzle is an ion pump that you can find in any mushroom, mold, or yeast. I’ve reproduced a picture of it here.
Fungus cells, like our own cells, have lots of little pouches inside of them for carrying out special kinds of chemical reactions. In order for those reactions to work, there have to be a lot of positively-charged protons inside the pouches. To get those protons into the pouches, ion pumps like this one force them through membranes.
This pump (which is is offically known as a vacuolar ATPase complex) is a wonderfully complex collection of proteins. They fit together elegantly,