Energy and matter at the origin of life
Date: Fri 24 May 2019, 13:00 - 14:00
Location: SEMS Seminar Room, Engineering Building, Mile End Rd., London, E1 4NS
Due to high interest, location may change - so look back on the page and follow-up emails for the location.
Nick Lane, Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry, University College London
Cells need a continuous flow of energy and matter to grow. All life on Earth uses the unanticipated mechanism of electrochemical charges across membranes to generate ATP and to fix CO2. The protein machinery required to generate and harness this charge is extremely sophisticated, raising the question of how such a universally conserved process arose in early cells. I will use the mechanism of CO2 fixation in methanogens as a guide to the possible prebiotic origins of growth and intermediary metabolism. I will show that equivalent electrochemical gradients are found across inorganic pores in alkaline hydrothermal vents, and that proton flux may have driven the difficult reaction between H2 and CO2 to form organic matter and ultimately the first cells.
About Nick Lane
Nick Lane’s research is on the way that energy flow has shaped evolution, using a mixture of theoretical modelling and experimental work to address the origin of life, the evolution of complex cells and downright peculiar behaviour such as sex. Prof Lane is Co-Director of the UCL Centre for Life’s Origin and Evolution (CLOE) and was a founding member of the UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research. His work has been honoured by several awards and prizes including the 2015 Biochemical Society Award and the 2016 Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize. He has published more than 80 research papers and four acclaimed books on evolutionary biochemistry, which have been translated into 30 languages. Life Ascending won the 2010 Royal Society Prize for Science Books, while Bill Gates described The Vital Questionas “an amazing inquiry into the origins of life.”
Updated by: Stoyan Smoukov