An article on The Scientist promised to provide “clues to plant evolution,” but the data seemed like clues to something else – namely, design.  The article was about how plant proteins interact with one another – the “interactome” (another word to add to genome and proteome).  Did the work actually fulfill evolutionary predictions?  Even if they claim it did, did it really?

The common water cress Arabidopsis thaliana has, for years now, been the “lab rat” of the plant world.  Two teams publishing in Science this week examined the plant’s interactome and compared their findings with evolutionary predictions.  Lo and behold, they found their predictions fulfilled.  So they claimed.  But The Scientist said this about the Braun et al. study,1 which mapped 8,000 proteins (30 percent of the plant’s protein-encoding genes) and how they network together when inserted into yeast cells:

The researchers also looked at the impact of these networks on evolution.  The protein products of duplicated genes, for example, might be expected to take on different functions, as one can maintain the original task while the other is free to accumulate mutations.  But the researchers found that most gene duplicates in Arabidopsis tended to interact with many of the same proteins, even though those duplicates had originated more than 700 million years ago, suggesting that the interactome somehow reduces the freedom of duplicated proteins to diverge.

This seems a serious blow to a common notion among evolutionists that duplicated genes comprise raw material for evolutionary innovation.  The authors of the paper confirmed the problem: “Whether or not natural selection shapes the evolution of interactome networks remains unclear,” they said, even though gene duplication is considered “a major driving force of evolutionary novelty” among evolutionists, and has been studied in yeast.  “However, the difficulty in dating ancient gene duplication events and the low coverage of available protein-protein interaction data sets limit the interpretation of these studies.”….

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