Molecular Evolution Activities



The Electrophoretic Revolution

Electrophoresis is a biochemical technique that separates proteins based on their size and net charge. It does so by passing an electric current accross a medium such as starch or polyacrylimide gel, so that the proteins are drawn toward the opposite electrode at different rates depending on the amount of electrical attraction and the ease with which they can move through the medium.

The introduction of electrophoresis into evolutionary genetics represents the introduction of techniques from molecular biology into evolutionary biology on a mass scale. The affordability and relative ease of electrophoresis allowed its widescale adoption by evolutionary biologists working on a range of issues and organisms. In 1966, Jack Hubby and Richard Lewontin pioneered the use of electrophoresis to address issues of genetic variability in natural populations. Within 15 years, over one thousand papers had been published on genetic variability using electrophoresis. While there was clearly an electrophoresis "bandwagon," it is not clear how the widescale use of electrophoresis altered evolutionary genetics or if it effected attitudes toward other molecular techniques, molecular biology in general, or the study of molecular evolution.



This page was written by Michael Dietrich.It was last update July 16, 2004.