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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7551/978-0-262-31050-5-ch002
Pages 11-18
First published 2 July 2012

Towards the Recapitulation of Ancient History in the Laboratory: Combining Synthetic Biology with Experimental Evolution

Betül Kaçar, Eric A. Gaucher

Abstract

One way to understand the role history plays on evolutionary trajectories is by giving ancient life a second opportunity to evolve. Our ability to empirically perform such an experiment, however, is limited by current experimental designs. Combining ancestral sequence reconstruction with synthetic biology allows us to resurrect the past within a modern context and has expanded our understanding of protein functionality within a historical context. Experimental evolution, on the other hand, provides us with the ability to study evolution in action, under controlled conditions in the laboratory. Here we describe a novel experimental setup that integrates two disparate fields - ancestral sequence reconstruction and experimental evolution. This allows us to rewind and replay the evolutionary history of ancient biomolecules in the laboratory. We anticipate that our combination will provide a deeper understanding of the underlying roles that contingency and determinism play in shaping evolutionary processes.