After some time after the first life was born, mutations occurred in cells in which pieces of DNA were duplicated. If those exact copies of certain functions in a cell did not cause complications, they were preserved in descendants of that cell. Pieces of DNA were backed up, as it were. These extra pieces of DNA made life more robust than ever before.
Because two pieces of DNA in a cell had the same function, mutations could occur in one of the two pieces without the cell getting into trouble. As a result, the variety of species and specializations that evolution could produce increased greatly.
But even ‘environmental factors’ inside the cell have an influence on the functions and construction of an organism. For example, the order in which a cell reads pieces of DNA or the way in which RNA folds down. These seemingly unimportant features determine many details. For example, how quickly or slowly cells communicate, share and which cell functions are given priority.
Researchers see an important separation between what is simply described in the DNA (the genotype) and the final outcome of the blue print – the living cell they observe (the phenotype).Researchers suspect that the biological machinery in the cell nucleus that connects the phenotype to the genotype is itself a result of evolution. The goal is to further unravel molecular processes in the cell nucleus to see how they affect the way the blue print of life (DNA) is used.