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Lucia Muggia, Martin Grube
Lichen symbioses develop long-living thallus structures even in the harshest environments on Earth. These structures are also habitats for many other microscopic organisms, including other fungi, which vary in their specificity and interaction with the whole symbiotic system. This contribution reviews the recent progress regarding the understanding of the lichen-inhabiting fungi that are achieved by multiphasic approaches (culturing, microscopy, and sequencing). The lichen mycobiome comprises a more or less specific pool of species that can develop symptoms on their hosts, a generalist environmental pool, and a pool of transient species...
May 22, 2018: Life
Aaron S Burton, Eve L Berger
Biology exhibits homochirality, in that only one of two possible molecular configurations (called enantiomers) is used in both proteins and nucleic acids. The origin of this phenomenon is currently unknown, as nearly all known abiotic mechanisms for generating these compounds result in equal (racemic) mixtures of both enantiomers. However, analyses of primitive meteorites have revealed that a number of amino acids of extraterrestrial origin are present in enantiomeric excess, suggesting that there was an abiotic route to synthesize amino acids in a non-racemic manner...
May 12, 2018: Life
Chris Mehta, Anthony Perez, Glenn Thompson, Matthew A Pasek
A hypothesis in prebiotic chemistry argues that organics were delivered to the early Earth in abundance by meteoritic sources. This study tests that hypothesis by measuring how the transfer of organic matter to the surface of Earth is affected by energy-dissipation processes such as ablation and airbursts. Exogenous delivery has been relied upon as a source of primordial material, but it must stand to reason that other avenues (i.e., hydrothermal vents, electric discharge) played a bigger role in the formation of life as we know it on Earth if exogenous material was unable to deliver significant quantities of organics...
May 12, 2018: Life
Benton C Clark, Vera M Kolb
In the “comet pond” model, a rare combination of circumstances enables the entry and landing of pristine organic material onto a planetary surface with the creation of a pond by a soft impact and melting of entrained ices. Formation of the constituents of the comet in the cold interstellar medium and our circumstellar disk results in multiple constituents at disequilibrium which undergo rapid chemical reactions in the warmer, liquid environment. The planetary surface also provides minerals and atmospheric gases which chemically interact with the pond’s organic- and trace-element-rich constituents...
May 11, 2018: Life
Daniel Milshteyn, Bruce Damer, Jeff Havig, David Deamer
There is a general assumption that amphiphilic compounds, such as fatty acids, readily form membranous vesicles when dispersed in aqueous phases. However, from earlier studies, it is known that vesicle stability depends strongly on pH, temperature, chain length, ionic concentration and the presence or absence of divalent cations. To test how robust simple amphiphilic compounds are in terms of their ability to assemble into stable vesicles, we chose to study 10- and 12-carbon monocarboxylic acids and a mixture of the latter with its monoglyceride...
May 10, 2018: Life
Richard J Gillams, Tony Z Jia
An increasing body of evidence relates the wide range of benefits mineral surfaces offer for the development of early living systems, including adsorption of small molecules from the aqueous phase, formation of monomeric subunits and their subsequent polymerization, and supramolecular assembly of biopolymers and other biomolecules. Each of these processes was likely a necessary stage in the emergence of life on Earth. Here, we compile evidence that templating and enhancement of prebiotically-relevant self-assembling systems by mineral surfaces offers a route to increased structural, functional, and/or chemical complexity...
May 8, 2018: Life
Benedetta Turchetti, Laura Selbmann, Nina Gunde-Cimerman, Pietro Buzzini, José Paulo Sampaio, Polona Zalar
Over 80% of the Earth’s environments are permanently or periodically exposed to temperatures below 5 °C. Cold habitats harbour a wide diversity of psychrophilic and psychrotolerant yeasts. During ecological studies of yeast communities carried out in cold ecosystem in the Italian Alps, Svalbard (Norway, Arctic region), and Portugal, 23 yeast strains that could not be assigned to any known fungal taxa were isolated. In particular, two of them were first identified as Rhodotorula sp., showing the highest degree of D1/D2 sequence identity with Cystobasidum laryngis accounted to only 97% with the type strain ( C...
May 5, 2018: Life
Paula M Tribelli, Nancy I López
It is well known that cold environments are predominant over the Earth and there are a great number of reports analyzing bacterial adaptations to cold. Most of these works are focused on characteristics traditionally involved in cold adaptation, such as the structural adjustment of enzymes, maintenance of membrane fluidity, expression of cold shock proteins and presence of compatible solutes. Recent works based mainly on novel "omic" technologies have presented evidence of the presence of other important features to thrive in cold...
March 13, 2018: Life
Avinash Vicholous Dass, Maguy Jaber, André Brack, Frédéric Foucher, Terence P Kee, Thomas Georgelin, Frances Westall
A concise outlook on the potential role of confinement in phosphorylation and phosphate condensation pertaining to prebiotic chemistry is presented. Inorganic confinement is a relatively uncharted domain in studies concerning prebiotic chemistry, and even more so in terms of experimentation. However, molecular crowding within confined dimensions is central to the functioning of contemporary biology. There are numerous advantages to confined environments and an attempt to highlight this fact, within this article, has been undertaken, keeping in context the limitations of aqueous phase chemistry in phosphorylation and, to a certain extent, traditional approaches in prebiotic chemistry...
March 5, 2018: Life
Raffaele Saladino, Lorenzo Botta, Ernesto Di Mauro
Meteorites are consensually considered to be involved in the origin of life on this Planet for several functions and at different levels: (i) as providers of impact energy during their passage through the atmosphere; (ii) as agents of geodynamics, intended both as starters of the Earth's tectonics and as activators of local hydrothermal systems upon their fall; (iii) as sources of organic materials, at varying levels of limited complexity; and (iv) as catalysts. The consensus about the relevance of these functions differs...
February 22, 2018: Life
Sergio Branciamore, Grigoriy Gogoshin, Massimo Di Giulio, Andrei S Rodin
The identity/recognition of tRNAs, in the context of aminoacyl tRNA synthetases (and other molecules), is a complex phenomenon that has major implications ranging from the origins and evolution of translation machinery and genetic code to the evolution and speciation of tRNAs themselves to human mitochondrial diseases to artificial genetic code engineering. Deciphering it via laboratory experiments, however, is difficult and necessarily time- and resource-consuming. In this study, we propose a mathematically rigorous two-pronged in silico approach to identifying and classifying tRNA positions important for tRNA identity/recognition, rooted in machine learning and information-theoretic methodology...
February 8, 2018: Life
Kamel Jabbari, Peter Heger, Ranu Sharma, Thomas Wiehe
The CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) is multi-functional, ubiquitously expressed, and highly conserved from Drosophila to human. It has important roles in transcriptional insulation and the formation of a high-dimensional chromatin structure. CTCF has a paralog called "Brother of Regulator of Imprinted Sites" (BORIS) or "CTCF-like" (CTCFL). It binds DNA at sites similar to those of CTCF. However, the expression profiles of the two proteins are quite different. We investigated the evolutionary trajectories of the two proteins after the duplication event using a phylogenomic and interactomic approach...
January 30, 2018: Life
Taro Furubayashi, Norikazu Ichihashi
The emergence and dominance of parasitic replicators are among the major hurdles for the proliferation of primitive replicators. Compartmentalization of replicators is proposed to relieve the parasite dominance; however, it remains unclear under what conditions simple compartmentalization uncoupled with internal reaction secures the long-term survival of a population of primitive replicators against incessant parasite emergence. Here, we investigate the sustainability of a compartmentalized host-parasite replicator (CHPR) system undergoing periodic washout-mixing cycles, by constructing a mathematical model and performing extensive simulations...
January 26, 2018: Life
Giovanni Vladilo, Ali Hassanali
The scientific community is allocating more and more resources to space missions and astronomical observations dedicated to the search for life beyond Earth. This experimental endeavor needs to be backed by a theoretical framework aimed at defining universal criteria for the existence of life. With this aim in mind, we have explored which chemical and physical properties should be expected for life possibly different from the terrestrial one, but similarly sustained by genetic and catalytic molecules. We show that functional molecules performing genetic and catalytic tasks must feature a hierarchy of chemical interactions operating in distinct energy bands...
January 3, 2018: Life
Samuel R Levin, Stuart A West
Various steps in the RNA world required cooperation. Why did life's first inhabitants, from polymerases to synthetases, cooperate? We develop kin selection models of the RNA world to answer these questions. We develop a very simple model of RNA cooperation and then elaborate it to model three relevant issues in RNA biology: (1) whether cooperative RNAs receive the benefits of cooperation; (2) the scale of competition in RNA populations; and (3) explicit replicator diffusion and survival. We show: (1) that RNAs are likely to express partial cooperation; (2) that RNAs will need mechanisms for overcoming local competition; and (3) in a specific example of RNA cooperation, persistence after replication and offspring diffusion allow for cooperation to overcome competition...
December 5, 2017: Life
Christian J Michel, Viviane Nguefack Ngoune, Olivier Poch, Raymond Ripp, Julie D Thompson
A set X of 20 trinucleotides has been found to have the highest average occurrence in the reading frame, compared to the two shifted frames, of genes of bacteria, archaea, eukaryotes, plasmids and viruses. This set X has an interesting mathematical property, since X is a maximal C3 self-complementary trinucleotide circular code. Furthermore, any motif obtained from this circular code X has the capacity to retrieve, maintain and synchronize the original (reading) frame. Since 1996, the theory of circular codes in genes has mainly been developed by analysing the properties of the 20 trinucleotides of X, using combinatorics and statistical approaches...
December 3, 2017: Life
Manesh Prakash Joshi, Anupam Samanta, Gyana Ranjan Tripathy, Sudha Rajamani
Terrestrial geothermal fields and oceanic hydrothermal vents are considered as candidate environments for the emergence of life on Earth. Nevertheless, the ionic strength and salinity of oceans present serious limitations for the self-assembly of amphiphiles, a process that is fundamental for the formation of first protocells. Consequently, we systematically characterized the efficiency of amphiphile assembly, and vesicular stability, in terrestrial geothermal environments, both, under simulated laboratory conditions and in hot spring water samples (collected from Ladakh, India, an Astrobiologically relevant site)...
November 30, 2017: Life
Izabela K Sibilska, Bingming Chen, Lingjun Li, John Yin
The primordial Earth probably had most of the factors needed for the emergence and development of life. It is believed that it had not only water, but also simple inorganic and organic materials. While studies since the 1950s on the origins of organic matter have established key roles for amino acids, conditions that would have promoted their condensation to make polymers, such as peptides or proteins, have yet to be fully defined. The condensation of amino acids in a water-rich environment is not thermodynamically favored...
November 30, 2017: Life
Wentao Ma
Corresponding to life's two distinct aspects: Darwinian evolution and self-sustainment, the origin of life should also split into two issues: the origin of Darwinian evolution and the arising of self-sustainment. Because the "self-sustainment" we concern about life should be the self-sustainment of a relevant system that is "defined" by its genetic information, the self-sustainment could not have arisen before the origin of Darwinian evolution, which was just marked by the emergence of genetic information...
November 29, 2017: Life
András Szilágyi, István Zachar, István Scheuring, Ádám Kun, Balázs Könnyű, Tamás Czárán
As of today, the most credible scientific paradigm pertaining to the origin of life on Earth is undoubtedly the RNA World scenario. It is built on the assumption that catalytically active replicators (most probably RNA-like macromolecules) may have been responsible for booting up life almost four billion years ago. The many different incarnations of nucleotide sequence (string) replicator models proposed recently are all attempts to explain on this basis how the genetic information transfer and the functional diversity of prebiotic replicator systems may have emerged, persisted and evolved into the first living cell...
November 27, 2017: Life
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