The Jackprot is a didactic slot machine simulation that illustrates how mutation rate coupled with natural selection can interact to generate highly specialized proteins.
Conceptualized by Guillermo Paz-y-Miño C. (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth), Avelina Espinosa (Roger Williams University) and Chunyan Y. Bai (Roger Williams University), the Jackprot uses simplified slot-machine probability principles to demonstrate how mutation rate coupled with natural selection suffice to explain the origin and evolution of highly specialized proteins. The Jackprot also helps us understand why evolution by means of natural selection cannot be a random process.
Winning the ‘jackprot,’ or highest-fitness complete-peptide sequence, requires gradual and cumulative smaller ‘wins’ (rewarded by selection) at the first, second and third nucleotide positions in each of the codons coding for a polypeptide (= ‘jackdons’ that lead to ‘jackacids’ that lead to the ‘jackprot’).
A slot-machine represents the cellular chemical apparatus, product itself of Darwinian evolution, required to generate, step by step, each of the three nucleotides coding for an amino acid. The probability of getting the correct triplet, for example, the start codon methionine or ATG, in a single attempt (or winning the ‘jackacid’), is equal to 1/64, or one divided by 4 x 4 x 4 (i.e. the total number of possible nucleotides per position multiplied by itself three times)…
…But because molecular evolution occurs gradually, a naturalistic assumption of the ‘jackprot’ model, each time any of the correct nucleotides is generated by the slot-machine, natural selection rewards it and keeps it (partial nucleotide win in a codon or ‘jackdon’)…
…Therefore, the probability of arriving, nucleotide by nucleotide, at the ATG sequence is equal to 1/12, or one divided by 4 + 4 + 4 (i.e. the summation of the individual probabilities for each nucleotide position), a much faster evolutionary process. Note that the sequential and additive arrival at the phenotypically meaningful sequence of A plus T plus G, represents, in reality, the accumulation of events fixed by natural selection during protein evolution, which entails clustered changes of multiple parts, and at diverse locations, within functional protein domains.
Teachers and students can access The Jackprot Simulation (click on illustration above) and run statistical analyses of protein evolution by simply cutting and pasting genomic (nucleotide) sequences obtained from the National Center for Biotechnology Information NCBI. The Jackprot generates statistics on nucleotide evolution under selection (both observed and expected values) and at random (expected values without selection). — © 2011 by Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C. all rights reserved
For detailed guidelines on how to use The Jackprot Simulation click on Guidelines Jackprot
To access original scientific article on The Jackprot Simulation, published in Evol Edu Outreach, click on PDF
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Interesting Site: “Darwin’s Notebook”
“…A team of hip-hop and contemporary dancers injected life into the still artifacts at a museum… in a show called “Darwin’s Notebook” held at the University of Cambridge Museum of Zoology ” (Source Science Magazine: click on image below for details).
Darwin’s Image Credit: Ben Swift/Nonsinthetik, from Hip-Hoppin’ Through Darwin’s Theories