Origins 2011 – Abstracts
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O5: Contributed Orals – Early and Minimal Life
A DNA toolbox for engineering in vitro life-like behaviors
1Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University, Japan; 2LIMMS/CNRS-IIS, Institute of Industrial Science, Tokyo University
We developed a modular toolbox based on a simple biochemical machinery, for designing arbitrary experimental chemical networks. As a proof of concept, we successfully assembled an autocatalytic unit with a negative feedback loop, generating a predictable chemical oscillator. This can be used to construct other life-like functions (bistable, gradient responsive switches, logical gates, boolean networks). Compartimentalization of these systems may provide a good platform for designing protocells.
RNA structures and the error threshold
1Parmenides Center for the Study of Thinking, Münich, Germany; 2Research Group of Ecology and Theoretical Biology, Eötvös University and The Hungarian Academy of Sciences; 3Department of Plant Taxonomy and Ecology, Institute of Biology, Eötvös University; 4Collegium Budapest, Institute for Advanced Study
The phenotypic error threshold is the critical mutation rate above which the structure of an RNA molecule cannot be maintained. We have exactly computed the error threshold for short RNAs by numerically solving the Eigen equations, and found that the mean number of neighboring neutral mutants highly correlates with the error threshold. Most known aptamers and ribozymes could be maintained with mutation rate as high as 5%.
Origins of Protein Functions in Cells
1NASA Ames Research Center, United States of America; 2University of Minnesota, United States of America
In vitro evolution of polypeptides from random sequences of amino acids combined with computer-aided design was used to probe the origins and evolution of primordial, functional proteins. Among the evolved proteins some have novel sequence, structure and function. The results not only allow for estimating the likelihood of finding a function among random protein assemblies and provide clues to how ancestral proteins diversified but also point to the possibility of alternative protein worlds.
Evolution of membrane bioenergetics
1School of Physics, University of Osnabrueck, D-49069 Osnabrueck, Germany, School of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow 119992, Russia; 2National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20894, USA; 3School of Physics, University of Osnabrueck, D-49069 Osnabrueck, A.N.Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, 119991, Russia
Based on structural and phylogenetic analyses we argue that the first ATP synthases evolved from protein translocases within primitive, sodium-impermeable membranes. The more structurally demanding proton-tight membranes appear to emerge later, independently in bacteria and archaea. The first quinol:cytochrome c oxidoreductases seem to emerge within bacteria. Different archaeal phyla seem to have acquired different types of this enzyme by lateral gene transfer on several independent occasions.
Attempt at a Systemic Design of a Protocell: Connecting information, Metabolism and Container
1University of Southern Denmark, Denmark; 2LANL, MPA Division, USA; 3LANL, EES Division, USa
The design of protocell as models for primordial life forms has been proposed long ago, but never truly realized. We are now attempting to create in a systemic fashion a self-replicating chemical system. Our idea is to assemble all three minimal components (information, metabolism and container) of living cells in simple design that should allow for the study of the interconnections between the components and the resulting emergent properties (self-maintenance, self-replication and evolution).