Proteins: Structure, Function & Evolution

Understanding how life works depends to a great extent on understanding how proteins work. Thanks to the Human Genome Project, we now have a catalogue of all the proteins that are encoded in the human genome.  This might be thought of as life’s toolbox. The next questions are: how do those tools work; how do they interact with each other; and how have they evolved over the billions of years of evolutionary time that have led to us? This module introduces modern techniques for the study of protein structure, function and evolution. 

Lectures cover: structural-functional relationships in proteins; methods for detecting the action of Darwinian selection in protein evolution; methods for reconstructing the evolutionary events that have led to present-day proteins; and, the new lab techniques that are allowing us to study protein function on a large scale. In the practical sessions, you will gain hands on experience of molecular phylogenetics – the main tool for studying evolution at the molecular level – as it is applied to proteins. Assessment is by an exam and a coursework essay on a protein of your choice, giving you a chance to apply your new knowledge of protein biochemistry to any of your own areas of interest in biology.