Navigation Links
A new way to think about Earth's first cells
Date:6/5/2008

A team of researchers at Harvard University have modeled in the laboratory a primitive cell, or protocell, that is capable of building, copying and containing DNA.

Since there are no physical records of what the first primitive cells on Earth looked like, or how they grew and divided, the research team's protocell project offers a useful way to learn about how Earth's earliest cells may have interacted with their environment approximately 3.5 billion years ago.

The protocell's fatty acid membrane allows chemical compounds, including the building blocks of DNA, to enter into the cell without the assistance of the protein channels and pumps required by today's highly developed cell membranes. Also unlike modern cells, the protocell does not use enzymes for copying its DNA.

Supported with funding from the National Science Foundation and led by Jack W. Szostak of the Harvard Medical School, the research team published its findings in the June 4, 2008, edition of the journal Nature's advance online publication.

"Szostak's group took a creative approach to this research challenge and made a significant contribution to our understanding of small molecule transport through membranes," said Luis Echegoyen, director of the NSF Division of Chemistry. "This is a great outcome of NSF's support of basic research."

Some scientists have proposed that ancient hydrothermal vents may have been sites where prebiotic molecules--molecules made before the origin of life, such as fatty acids and amino acids--were formed. An animation (accessible at upper right) created by Janet Iwasa of the Szostak Laboratory shows a theoretical scenario in which fatty acids are formed on the surface of minerals deep underground, and then brought to the surface by the eruption of a geyser.

When fatty acids are in an aqueous environment, they spontaneously arrange so that their hydrophilic, or water-loving, "heads" interact with the surrounding water molecules and their hydrophobic, or water-fearing, "tails" are shielded from the water, resulting in the formation of tiny spheres of fatty acids called micelles.

Depending upon chemical concentrations and the pH of their environment, micelles can convert into layered membrane sheets or enclosed vesicles. Researchers commonly use vesicles to model the cellular membranes of protocells. A second animation created by Iwasa (accessible at lower right) shows how vesicles may have been formed.

When the team started its work, the researchers were not sure that the building blocks required for copying the protocell's genetic material would be able to enter the cell.

"By showing that this can happen, and indeed happen quite efficiently, we have come a little closer to our goal of making a functional protocell that, in the right environment, is able to grow and divide on its own," said Szostak.


'/>"/>

Contact: Jennifer A. Grasswick
jgrasswi@nsf.gov
703-292-4972
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

Related medicine news :

1. Kids Think Glasses Make Others Look Smart, Honest
2. Study: Kids think eyeglasses make other kids look smart
3. Think before you drink, says university research
4. Many Teen Drivers Dont Think Theyre Inexperienced
5. Teens think they have asthma under control, but benefit from new approach to treatment
6. Indoor Tanning is Not as Safe as You Think. In Fact, Its Totally Out:
7. When positive thinking leads to financial irresponsibility like compulsive gambling
8. Men More Likely to Have Problems with Memory and Thinking Skills
9. Older Americans are more socially engaged than many people may think
10. Most republicans think the US health care system is the best in the world; democrats disagree
11. Surgeons Rethink Approach to Minimal Incision Foot and Ankle Surgery
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
A new way to think about Earth's first cells
(Date:3/29/2017)... ... March 29, 2017 , ... Wells Pharmacy Network, ... prescribers at the upcoming World Congress, in Hollywood Florida April 6-8, 2017. , ... as the visionary leader in the training of physicians, scientists, and members of ...
(Date:3/29/2017)... ... 29, 2017 , ... The Wall Centre Dental team is ... from Burnaby, BC. Patients in need of experienced orthodontics, laser dentistry, porcelain veneers, ... esteemed team at Wall Centre Dental. Drs. Parviz Roshan, Siamak Tehrani, Milton Reskovich ...
(Date:3/29/2017)... ... 2017 , ... Patients interested in receiving quick and effective ... Cameron, with or without a referral. The FASTBRACES system is valued for its ... patient’s case, treatment with the FASTBRACES system could be completed in 120 days ...
(Date:3/29/2017)... Mich. (PRWEB) , ... March ... ... and Manufacturer Alliance (GRMA) is growing as it continues developing an ANSI-approved, ... supplement industry. The organization, which plans to publish the first ANSI-approved GMP ...
(Date:3/29/2017)... ... March 29, 2017 , ... Altima Technologies, ... diagramming network and data center assets and audio-video devices has recently updated its ... equipment shapes for free and download shapes and stencils from http://www.VisioStencils.com. ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:3/29/2017)... 29, 2017  Maxor National Pharmacy Services, LLC ("Maxor"), ... has named Leah Bailey as General Counsel.  Bailey ... the company. With more than 13 years ... years focused on health care, Bailey joins the Maxor ... Prime, Bailey advised the PBM, Specialty, and Mail Order ...
(Date:3/29/2017)... 2017 Varian Medical Systems (NYSE: VAR ... second quarter of fiscal year 2017 following the close of ... will be followed by a teleconference available to all interested ... link to the conference call webcast will be available on ... teleconference call and replay: ...
(Date:3/29/2017)...  Spiral Therapeutics, Inc. today announced the signature ... for the worldwide exclusive rights to Bionure,s lead ... of otolaryngology for aggregate payments of up to ... provides Spiral with the option to license two ... Under the terms of the agreement, Spiral will ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: