Climate warming could lead to mutations to have more serious health consequences for unicellular and multicellular organisms: rising global temperatures adversely affect protein function.

The natural environment is transforming faster due to ongoing climate change. This creates new living conditions for many species:

In the long term, organisms will have to adapt to these rapid environmental changes genetically: otherwise, they could become extinct. This adaptation can occur through mutations that cause changes in the genome that are beneficial under new conditions. But very often, mutations have negative consequences for the person who carries them.

David Berger, Fellow, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Uppsala University.

In the new study, theoretical models of protein functioning were combined with experimental results comparing the effects of mutations in different life forms in various environments.

Researchers have experimented on beetles that have already developed new mutations and also analyzed the results of previous similar studies: for example, with yeast, bacteria, and viruses, or with multicellular organisms, where they studied roundworms and cross-lettuce. By combining all this information, the researchers determined how organisms lived in different environments before and after the onset of mutations.

First of all, the goal was to find out whether environmental conditions cause various harmful effects of mutations. They manipulated the temperature to find out at what level it could hypothetically happen.

Research shows that if temperatures rise by 2-4°C, the harmful effects of new mutations in tropical species will double.