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University of Oregon

Path of key proteins in health and disease began with two ancient mutations

UO News on the work of the Thornton lab

EUGENE, Ore. — (June 25, 2013) — Two tiny mutations in a single protein 500 million years ago caused steroid hormones to take on their crucial present-day roles, including key effects on sexual reproduction and development, regulation of stress and immunity, and the growth of breast and prostate cancers, report scientists from the University of Oregon and three other institutions.

The findings — placed online this week ahead of regular publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — are the newest in a long-running series of work under the direction of biologist Joe Thornton of the UO’s Institute of Ecology and Evolution, and Michael J. Harms, a postdoctoral scientist in Thornton’s lab.

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