By looking at the light from distant galaxies and having well-established calibration methods, astrophysics can make hypotheses about the history of our universe. Do we have similar "rulers" in biology that could allow us to reconstruct the remote past and the evolution of species on this planet? The answer is likely "yes" and the clues are undoubtedly contained in the many whole genome sequences that are now available for inspection. However, it is critical to evaluate the assumptions that one makes in analyzing such sequence data. The first part of the talk discusses how one might reconstruct an accurate phylogeny between species based upon examining neutral mutations (particularly the degenerate third base in the triplet codon of certain amino acids). Critical to the approach is the realization that different species (e.g. mice and men) are evolving at significantly different rates.
Sydney Brenner is currently a Distinguished Professor of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, USA. Dr. Brenner received degrees in Medicine and Science from the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa and a D. Phil. in Chemistry from Oxford University, England. Dr. Brenner was a member of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of… Continue Reading