Life2013, 3(4), 518-523; doi:10.3390/life3040518 - published online 28 October 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Currently there are five known mechanisms of horizontal gene transfer (HGT): transduction, conjugation, transformation, gene transfer agents and membrane vesicle transfer. The question here is: what part did HGT play in the reorganisation of genetics during the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) epoch? LUCA is a construct to explain the origin of the three domains of life; namely Archaea, Bacteria and Eukarya. This editorial offers a general introduction to the relevance and ultimate significance of HGT in relation to the LUCA.
Life2013, 3(3), 502-517; doi:10.3390/life3030502 - published online 28 August 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The idea of an autotrophic organism as the first living being on Earth leads to the hypothesis of a protometabolic, complex chemical system. In one of the main hypotheses, the first metabolic systems emerged from the interaction between sulfide minerals and/or soluble iron-sulfide complexes and fluids rich in inorganic precursors, which are reduced and derived from crustal or mantle activity. Within this context, the possible catalytic role of pyrrhotite, one of the most abundant sulfide minerals, in biomimetic redox and carbon fixation reactions was studied. Our results showed that pyrrhotite, under simulated hydrothermal conditions, could catalyze the pyruvate synthesis from lactate and that a dynamic system formed by coupling iron metal and iron-sulfur species in an electrochemical cell could promote carbon fixation from thioacetate esters.
Life2013, 3(3), 486-501; doi:10.3390/life3030486 - published online 16 August 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Experiments will be presented and reviewed to support the hypothesis that the intrinsic reactivity of formaldehyde may lead to the formation of a rather comprehensive set of defined biomolecules, including D-glucose, thus fostering concepts of evolution considering the existence of a premetabolic system as a primordial step in the generation of life.
Life2013, 3(3), 482-485; doi:10.3390/life3030482 - published online 7 August 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Over the last decades, the study of extremophiles has providing ground breaking discoveries that challenge the paradigms of modern biology and make us rethink intriguing questions such as "what is life?", "what are the limits of life?", and "what are the fundamental features of life?". These findings and possibilities have made the study of life in extreme environments one of the most exciting areas of research in recent decades. However, despite the latest advances we are just in the beginning of exploring and characterizing the world of extremophiles. This special issue discusses several aspects of these fascinating organisms, exploring their habitats, biodiversity, ecology, evolution, genetics, biochemistry, and biotechnological applications in a collection of exciting reviews and original articles written by leading experts and research groups in the field.
Life2013, 3(3), 474-481; doi:10.3390/life3030474 - published online 2 August 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The DNA molecule has properties that allow it to act as a quantum logic processor. It has been demonstrated that there is coherent conduction of electrons longitudinally along the DNA molecule through pi stacking interactions of the aromatic nucleotide bases, and it has also been demonstrated that electrons moving longitudinally along the DNA molecule are subject to a very efficient electron spin filtering effect as the helicity of the DNA molecule interacts with the spin of the electron. This means that, in DNA, electrons are coherently conducted along a very efficient spin filter. Coherent electron spin is held in a logically and thermodynamically reversible chiral symmetry between the C2-endo and C3-endo enantiomers of the deoxyribose moiety in each nucleotide, which enables each nucleotide to function as a quantum gate. The symmetry break that provides for quantum decision in the system is determined by the spin direction of an electron that has an orbital angular momentum that is sufficient to overcome the energy barrier of the double well potential separating the C2-endo and C3-endo enantiomers, and that enantiomeric energy barrier is appropriate to the Landauer limit of the energy necessary to randomize one bit of information.
Life2013, 3(3), 449-473; doi:10.3390/life3030449 - published online 30 July 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: A series of non-proteinogenic amino acids, most of them found quite commonly in the meteorites known as carbonaceous chondrites, were subjected to solid state radiolysis in vacuum to a total radiation dose of 3.2 MGy corresponding to 23% of the total dose expected to be taken by organic molecules buried in asteroids and meteorites since the beginning of the solar system 4.6 × 109 years ago. The radiolyzed amino acids were studied by FT-IR spectroscopy, Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) and by polarimety and Optical Rotatory Dispersion (ORD). It is shown that an important fraction of each amino acid is able to “survive” the massive dose of radiation, while the enantiomeric excess is partially preserved. Based on the results obtained, it is concluded that it is unsurprising to find amino acids even in enantiomeric excess in carbonaceous chondrites.