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Results Probl Cell Differ. 2011;53:1-9. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-19065-0_1.

Experimental systems to explore life origin: perspectives for understanding primitive mechanisms of cell division.

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  • 1The Center for Computational and Integrative Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Richard B. Simches Research Center, 185 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114, USA. kate@protobiology.org


Compartmentalization is a necessary element for the development of any cell cycle and the origin of speciation. Changes in shape and size of compartments might have been the first manifestation of development of so-called cell cycles. Cell growth and division, processes guided by biological reactions in modern cells, might have originated as purely physicochemical processes. Modern cells use enzymes to initiate and control all stages of cell cycle. Protocells, in the absence of advanced enzymatic machinery, might have needed to rely on physical properties of the membrane. As the division processes could not have been controlled by the cell's metabolism, the first protocells probably did not undergo regular cell cycles as we know it in cells of today. More likely, the division of protocells was triggered either by some inorganic catalyzing factor, such as porous surface, or protocells divided when the encapsulated contents reached some critical concentration.

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