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Int Microbiol. 2005 Mar;8(1):23-31.

Controversies on the origin of life.

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  • 1Cavanilles Institute for Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Valencia, Spain. juli.pereto@uv.es

Abstract

Different viewpoints, many with deep philosophical and historical roots, have shaped the scientific study of the origin of life. Some of these argue that primeval life was based on simple anaerobic microorganisms able to use a wide inventory of abiotic organic materials (i.e. a heterotrophic origin), whereas others invoke a more sophisticated organization, one that thrived on simple inorganic molecules (i.e. an autotrophic origin). While many scientists assume that life started as a self-replicative molecule, the first gene, a primitive self-catalytic metabolic network has also been proposed as a starting point. Even the emergence of the cell itself is a contentious issue: did boundaries and compartments appear early or late during life's origin? Starting with a recent definition of life, based on concepts of autonomy and open-ended evolution, it is proposed here that, firstly, organic molecules self-organized in a primordial metabolism located inside protocells. The flow of matter and energy across those early molecular systems allowed the generation of more ordered states, forming the cradle of the first genetic records. Thus, the origin of life was a process initiated within ecologically interconnected autonomous compartments that evolved into cells with hereditary and true Darwinian evolutionary capabilities. In other words, the individual existence of life preceded its historical-collective dimension.

PMID:
15906258
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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