A gene previously thought to be present in all life on earth has been found missing in life near volcanoes.
The protein, thought to be one of the fundamental building blocks of life, is not present in certain volcanic single cell organisms.
The scientists studied archaea for the research, which are similar to bacteria but have a separate origin. The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, found the expected gene missing and another in its place.
This missing protein, named SSB, performs an essential role by binding DNA and protecting it from damage. “All cells, whether they are microbial or human, have some things in common. These are the fundamental components or building blocks which were present in the first cells and have been passed on over 3.5 billion years," says Prof. Malcolm White of the School of Biology at the Univ. of St Andrews.
"We have discovered that a gene normally thought to be absolutely essential and conserved throughout every form of life is, in fact, lost in one group of volcanic bugs and [is] replaced by a completely novel gene we have christened ThermoDBP," says White.