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Rewinding the Molecular Clock: Looking at Pioneering Molecular Phylogenetics Experiments in the Light of Proteomics



Ben Neely, Magnus Palmblad


Science is full of overlooked and undervalued research waiting to be rediscovered. Proteomics is no exception. In this perspective, we follow the ripples from a 1960 study of Zuckerkandl, Jones, and Pauling comparing tryptic peptides across animal species. This pioneering work directly led to the molecular clock hypothesis and the ensuing explosion in molecular phylogenetics. In the decades following, proteins continued to provide essential clues on evolutionary history. While technology has continued to improve, contemporary proteomics has strayed from this larger biological context, rarely comparing species or asking how protein structure, function, and interactions have evolved. Here we recombine proteomics with molecular phylogenetics, highlighting the value of framing proteomic results in a larger biological context and how almost forgotten research, though technologically surpassed, can still generate new ideas and illuminate our work from a different perspective. Though it is infeasible to read all research published on a large topic, looking up older papers can be surprisingly rewarding when rediscovering a "gem" at the end of a long citation chain, aided by digital collections and perpetually helpful librarians. Proper literature study reduces unnecessary repetition and allows research to be more insightful and impactful by truly standing on the shoulders of giants. All data was uploaded to MassIVE ( as dataset MSV000087993.
ACS Journal of Proteome Research


historical perspective, molecular phylogenetics, comparative proteomics, mass spectrometry, spectral libraries


Neely, B. and Palmblad, M. (2021), Rewinding the Molecular Clock: Looking at Pioneering Molecular Phylogenetics Experiments in the Light of Proteomics, ACS Journal of Proteome Research, [online],, (Accessed April 24, 2024)
Created September 15, 2021, Updated November 29, 2022