[MOLECULAR EVOLUTION OF ION CHANNELS: AMINO ACID SEQUENCES AND 3D STRUCTURES].
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An integral part of modern evolutionary biology is comparative analysis of structure and function of macromolecules such as proteins. The first and critical step to understand evolution of homologous proteins is their amino acid sequence alignment. However, standard algorithms fop not provide unambiguous sequence alignments for proteins of poor homology. More reliable results can be obtained by comparing experimental 3D structures obtained at atomic resolution, for instance, with the aid of X-ray structural analysis. If such structures are lacking, homology modeling is used, which may take into account indirect experimental data on functional roles of individual amino-acid residues. An important problem is that the sequence alignment, which reflects genetic modifications, does not necessarily correspond to the functional homology. The latter depends on three-dimensional structures which are critical for natural selection. Since alignment techniques relying only on the analysis of primary structures carry no information on the functional properties of proteins, including 3D structures into consideration is very important. Here we consider several examples involving ion channels and demonstrate that alignment of their three-dimensional structures can significantly improve sequence alignments obtained by traditional methods.
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