As origens da vida celular

quinta-feira, maio 20, 2010

The Origins of Cellular Life

Jason P. Schrum, Ting F. Zhu and Jack W. Szostak

-Author Affiliations

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular Biology and the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114


Understanding the origin of cellular life on Earth requires the discovery of plausible pathways for the transition from complex prebiotic chemistry to simple biology, defined as the emergence of chemical assemblies capable of Darwinian evolution. We have proposed that a simple primitive cell, or protocell, would consist of two key components: a protocell membrane that defines a spatially localized compartment, and an informational polymer that allows for the replication and inheritance of functional information. Recent studies of vesicles composed of fatty-acid membranes have shed considerable light on pathways for protocell growth and division, as well as means by which protocells could take up nutrients from their environment. Additional work with genetic polymers has provided insight into the potential for chemical genome replication and compatibility with membrane encapsulation. The integration of a dynamic fatty-acid compartment with robust, generalized genetic polymer replication would yield a laboratory model of a protocell with the potential for classical Darwinian biological evolution, and may help to evaluate potential pathways for the emergence of life on the early Earth. Here we discuss efforts to devise such an integrated protocell model.

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