Tracing whale myoglobin evolution by resurrecting ancient proteins

Yasuhiro Isogai, Hiroshi Imamura, Setsu Nakae, Tomonari Sumi, Ken ichi Takahashi, Taro Nakagawa, Antonio Tsuneshige, Tsuyoshi Shirai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Extant cetaceans, such as sperm whale, acquired the great ability to dive into the ocean depths during the evolution from their terrestrial ancestor that lived about 50 million years ago. Myoglobin (Mb) is highly concentrated in the myocytes of diving animals, in comparison with those of land animals, and is thought to play a crucial role in their adaptation as the molecular aqualung. Here, we resurrected ancestral whale Mbs, which are from the common ancestor between toothed and baleen whales (Basilosaurus), and from a further common quadrupedal ancestor between whale and hippopotamus (Pakicetus). The experimental and theoretical analyses demonstrated that whale Mb adopted two distinguished strategies to increase the protein concentration in vivo along the evolutionary history of deep sea adaptation; gaining precipitant tolerance in the early phase of the evolution, and increase of folding stability in the late phase.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16883
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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