Chalmers Conferences, 9th European Conference on Mathematical and Theoretical Biology

Energetics and evolution.
T.P. Curtis, L. Øvreås, W:T Sloan

Last modified: 2014-06-09


It is now widely accepted that the diversity of the microbial world is very large indeed. However, the rate of evolution appears to remarkably slow and possibly variable. The putative diversity of differing functional groups implies differing rates of evolution, for the age of the functional group does not match the diversity of the group. What then controls the rate of evolution? There appears to be a relationship between the putative diversity of differing functional groups and the free energy available to those organisms. Interestingly, there are four established patterns in genetic variations: larger genomes have fewer mutations, larger genomes have fewer deleterious mutations, deletions are favoured over mutations and AT mutations are favoured over GC mutations.  Each of these established methods can be related to the energy available to the cell.  We hypothesise that there is an energetic burden to the carriage of a mutation. And therefore organism with more energy are better able to support that mutation. We further hypothesise that organisms that carry more mutations can evolve more quickly.  To prove this hypothesis we must establish the levels of mutations in differing functional groups. This can be most easily achieved using metagenomic data, ideally reconstructed into genomes. However, it is far from clear that we have the mathematical tools to do this.