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Trends Genet. 2005 Dec;21(12):647-54. Epub 2005 Oct 11.

On the origin of genomes and cells within inorganic compartments.

Author information

  • 1National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20894, USA. koonin@ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Abstract

Building on the model of Russell and Hall for the emergence of life at a warm submarine hydrothermal vent, we suggest that, within a hydrothermally formed system of contiguous iron-sulfide (FeS) compartments, populations of virus-like RNA molecules, which eventually encoded one or a few proteins each, became the agents of both variation and selection. The initial darwinian selection was for molecular self-replication. Combinatorial sorting of genetic elements among compartments would have resulted in preferred proliferation and selection of increasingly complex molecular ensembles--those compartment contents that achieved replication advantages. The last universal common ancestor (LUCA) we propose was not free-living but an inorganically housed assemblage of expressed and replicable genetic elements. The evolution of the enzymatic systems for (i) DNA replication; and (ii) membrane and cell wall biosynthesis, enabled independent escape of the first archaebacterial and eubacterial cells from their hydrothermal hatchery, within which the LUCA itself remained confined.

PMID:
16223546
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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