PerspectiveORGANISMAL BIOLOGY

Sweet relief for pollinators

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Science  17 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6326, pp. 686-687
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam5323

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Summary

During the first half of Earth's history, oxygen supplies were scant. Photosynthesis probably evolved soon after the appearance of life, but it was not until 2.4 to 2.1 billion years ago that photosynthetic organisms invented the ability to use water as an electron donor and began to produce molecular oxygen (O2) as a waste product. The production of O2 and its accumulation in the atmosphere facilitated the evolution of complex multicellular organisms; there are no exclusively anaerobic multicellular organisms. But although much of life depends on it, O2 is dangerous to handle: Using O2 in metabolism produces reactive oxygen species (ROS) that cause oxidative damage. On page 733 of this issue, Levin et al. (1) show how a group of relatively recently evolved animals—pollinators with high metabolic rates—use an ancient pathway to defeat oxidative stress.

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