Protein Evolution and Origins

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Chapter 4: Information Theory and the
Evolution of Insulin

This chapter will use information theory to calculate the information and molecular knowledge in a real protein. The techniques discussed in this chapter to calculate knowledge are somewhat arbitrary in that they rely on both math and human insight. Furthermore, the techniques used here to calculate information differ slightly from those used by other authors. For justification, interested readers are referred to appendix 2.

   For this chapter, a small protein is desirable. Insulin meets this criteria. Insulin is a special kind of protein known as a hormone. When insulin is released into the blood stream, it signals cells to take up sugar. The actual hormone consists of two short chains, A and B. This chapter will calculate the information and knowledge in both chains. The A chain contains 21 amino acids and the B chain contains 30. The B chain will be considered first.

The most common sequence for the chain B in mammals is as follows:


   The first question that must be answered is which amino acids are critical and which ones can be replaced. At several positions in this chain more than one amino acid is allowed. The number of allowed amino acids at each position is determined by comparing the insulin found in man to that in pigs, cats, dogs, fish and any other animals that share the hormone. The next section will illustrate this technique.

next: Conserved Amino Acids

home: The Origin and Evolution of Life

Navigation Menu Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Insulin Analyzed using Information Theory
        Determining Allowed Amino Acids
        How Much Information Opens the Door
        Why Does this Work
        Total Information in Insulin A and B Chains
        Molecular Knowledge of Insulin
        Cartoon and Space Fill Models of Insulin
        The Probability of Insulin Evolving
        Insulin May Not Imply Design
        How Accurate is the Technique?
PDF: Information in the Protein Insulin (1 Mb)

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