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Annu Rev Biophys. 2010;39:245-63. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biophys.050708.133753.

Expanding roles for diverse physical phenomena during the origin of life.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114-2696, USA.


Recent synthetic approaches to understanding the origin of life have yielded insights into plausible pathways for the emergence of the first cells. Here we review current experiments with implications for the origin of life, emphasizing the ability of unexpected physical processes to facilitate the self-assembly and self-replication of the first biological systems. These laboratory efforts have uncovered novel physical mechanisms for the emergence of homochirality; the concentration and purification of prebiotic building blocks; and the ability of the first cells to assemble, grow, divide, and acquire greater complexity. In the absence of evolved biochemical capabilities, such physical processes likely played an essential role in early biology.

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