Abstract: Titan is the only world we know, other than Earth, that has a liquid on its surface. It also has a thick atmosphere composed of nitrogen and methane with a thick organic haze. There are lakes, rain, and clouds of methane and ethane. Here, we address the question of carbon-based life living in Titan liquids. Photochemically produced organics, particularly acetylene, in Titan’s atmosphere could be a source of biological energy when reacted with atmospheric hydrogen. Light levels on the surface of Titan are more than adequate for photosynthesis, but the biochemical limitations due to the few elements available in the environment may lead only to simple ecosystems that only consume atmospheric nutrients. Life on Titan may make use of the trace metals and other inorganic elements produced by meteorites as they ablate in its atmosphere. It is conceivable that H2O molecules on Titan could be used in a biochemistry that is rooted in hydrogen bonds in a way that metals are used in enzymes by life on Earth. Previous theoretical work has shown possible membrane structures, azotosomes, in Titan liquids, azotosomes, composed of small organic nitrogen compounds, such as acrylonitrile. The search for a plausible information molecule for life in Titan liquids remains an open research topic—polyethers have been considered and shown to be insoluble at Titan temperatures. Possible search strategies for life on Titan include looking for unusual concentrations of certain molecules reflecting biological selection. Homochirality is a special and powerful example of such biology selection. Environmentally, a depletion of hydrogen in the lower atmosphere may be a sign of metabolism. A discovery of life in liquid methane and ethane would be our first compelling indication that the universe is full of diverse and wondrous life forms.
Abstract: A novel algorithm and original software were used to cluster all proteins encoded in plastids of 72 species of the rhodophytic branch. The results are publicly available at http://lab6.iitp.ru/ppc/redline72/ in a database that allows fast identification of clusters (protein families) both by a fragment of an amino acid sequence and by a phylogenetic profile of a protein. No such integral clustering with the corresponding functions can be found in the public domain. The putative regulons of the transcription factors Ycf28 and Ycf29 encoded in the plastids were identified using the clustering and the database. A regulation of translation initiation was proposed for the ycf24 gene in plastids of certain red algae and apicomplexans as well as a regulation of a putative gene in apicoplasts of Babesia spp. and Theileriaparva. The conserved regulation of the ycf24 gene expression and specificity alternation of the transcription factor Ycf28 were shown in the plastids. A phylogenetic tree of plastids was generated for the rhodophytic branch. The hypothesis of the origin of apicoplasts from the common ancestor of all apicomplexans from plastids of red algae was confirmed.
Abstract: It is no doubt quite difficult to solve the riddle of the origin of life. So, firstly, I would like to point out the kinds of obstacles there are in solving this riddle and how we should tackle these difficult problems, reviewing the studies that have been conducted so far. After that, I will propose that the consecutive evolutionary steps in a timeline can be rationally deduced by using a common event as a juncture, which is obtained by two counter-directional approaches: one is the bottom-up approach through which many researchers have studied the origin of life, and the other is the top-down approach, through which I established the [GADV]-protein world hypothesis or GADV hypothesis on the origin of life starting from a study on the formation of entirely new genes in extant microorganisms. Last, I will describe the probable evolutionary process from the formation of Earth to the emergence of life, which was deduced by using a common event—the establishment of the first genetic code encoding [GADV]-amino acids—as a juncture for the results obtained from the two approaches.
Abstract: Transfer RNAs (tRNAs) are powerful small RNA entities that are used to translate nucleotide language of genes into the amino acid language of proteins. Their near-uniform length and tertiary structure as well as their high nucleotide similarity and post-transcriptional modifications have made it difficult to characterize individual species quantitatively. However, due to the central role of the tRNA pool in protein biosynthesis as well as newly emerging roles played by tRNAs, their quantitative assessment yields important information, particularly relevant for virus research. Viruses which depend on the host protein expression machinery have evolved various strategies to optimize tRNA usage—either by adapting to the host codon usage or encoding their own tRNAs. Additionally, several viruses bear tRNA-like elements (TLE) in the 5′- and 3′-UTR of their mRNAs. There are different hypotheses concerning the manner in which such structures boost viral protein expression. Furthermore, retroviruses use special tRNAs for packaging and initiating reverse transcription of their genetic material. Since there is a strong specificity of different viruses towards certain tRNAs, different strategies for recruitment are employed. Interestingly, modifications on tRNAs strongly impact their functionality in viruses. Here, we review those intersection points between virus and tRNA research and describe methods for assessing the tRNA pool in terms of concentration, aminoacylation and modification.
Abstract: Prominent in the L-shaped three-dimensional structure of tRNAs is the “elbow” where their two orthogonal helical stacks meet. It has a conserved structure arising from the interaction of the terminal loops of the D- and T-stem-loops, and presents to solution a flat face of a tertiary base pair between the D- and T-loops. In addition to the ribosome, which interacts with the elbow in all three of its tRNA binding sites, several cellular RNAs and many proteins are known to recognize the elbow. At least three classes of non-coding RNAs, namely 23S rRNA, ribonuclease P, and the T-box riboswitches, recognize the tRNA elbow employing an identical structural motif consisting of two interdigitated T-loops. In contrast, structural solutions to tRNA-elbow recognition by proteins are varied. Some enzymes responsible for post-transcriptional tRNA modification even disrupt the elbow structure in order to access their substrate nucleotides. The evolutionary origin of the elbow is mysterious, but, because it does not explicitly participate in the flow of genetic information, it has been proposed to be a late innovation. Regardless, it is biologically essential. Even some viruses that hijack the cellular machinery using tRNA decoys have convergently evolved near-perfect mimics of the tRNA elbow.