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Life, Volume 8, Issue 4 (December 2018)

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Open AccessReview Chemical Diversity of Metal Sulfide Minerals and Its Implications for the Origin of Life
Received: 11 September 2018 / Revised: 29 September 2018 / Accepted: 3 October 2018 / Published: 10 October 2018
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Abstract
Prebiotic organic synthesis catalyzed by Earth-abundant metal sulfides is a key process for understanding the evolution of biochemistry from inorganic molecules, yet the catalytic functions of sulfides have remained poorly explored in the context of the origin of life. Past studies on prebiotic
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Prebiotic organic synthesis catalyzed by Earth-abundant metal sulfides is a key process for understanding the evolution of biochemistry from inorganic molecules, yet the catalytic functions of sulfides have remained poorly explored in the context of the origin of life. Past studies on prebiotic chemistry have mostly focused on a few types of metal sulfide catalysts, such as FeS or NiS, which form limited types of products with inferior activity and selectivity. To explore the potential of metal sulfides on catalyzing prebiotic chemical reactions, here, the chemical diversity (variations in chemical composition and phase structure) of 304 natural metal sulfide minerals in a mineralogy database was surveyed. Approaches to rationally predict the catalytic functions of metal sulfides are discussed based on advanced theories and analytical tools of electrocatalysis such as proton-coupled electron transfer, structural comparisons between enzymes and minerals, and in situ spectroscopy. To this end, we introduce a model of geoelectrochemistry driven prebiotic synthesis for chemical evolution, as it helps us to predict kinetics and selectivity of targeted prebiotic chemistry under “chemically messy conditions”. We expect that combining the data-mining of mineral databases with experimental methods, theories, and machine-learning approaches developed in the field of electrocatalysis will facilitate the prediction and verification of catalytic performance under a wide range of pH and Eh conditions, and will aid in the rational screening of mineral catalysts involved in the origin of life. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Minerals and Origins of Life)
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Open AccessArticle Testing New Concepts for Crop Cultivation in Space: Effects of Rooting Volume and Nitrogen Availability
Received: 8 September 2018 / Revised: 24 September 2018 / Accepted: 3 October 2018 / Published: 6 October 2018
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Abstract
Long term human missions to the Moon and Mars, rely on life support systems for food production and regeneration of resources. In the EU H2020 TIME SCALE-project, an advanced life support system concept was developed to facilitate plant research and technology demonstration under
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Long term human missions to the Moon and Mars, rely on life support systems for food production and regeneration of resources. In the EU H2020 TIME SCALE-project, an advanced life support system concept was developed to facilitate plant research and technology demonstration under different gravity conditions. Ground experiments assessed irrigation systems and effects of rooting- and nutrient solution volume. The maximal allowed volume for existing International Space Station research facilities (3.4 L) was able to support cultivation of two lettuce heads for at least 24 days. A smaller rooting volume (0.6 L) increased root biomass after 24 days, but induced a 5% reduction in total biomass at day 35. Regulating effects of nitrate supply on plant water fluxes in light and dark were also investigated. At low concentrations of nitrate in the nutrient solution, both transpiration and stomatal conductance increased rapidly with increasing nitrate concentration. During day-time this increase levelled off at high concentrations, while during nigh-time there was a distinct decline at supra optimal concentrations. Plants supplied with nitrate concentrations as low as 1.25 mM did not show visible signs of nutrient stress or growth reduction. These findings hold promise for both reducing the environmental impact of terrestrial horticulture and avoiding nutrient stress in small scale closed cultivation systems for space. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Astrobiology)
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Open AccessArticle Possible Emergence of Sequence Specific RNA Aminoacylation via Peptide Intermediary to Initiate Darwinian Evolution and Code through Origin of Life
Received: 8 August 2018 / Revised: 30 September 2018 / Accepted: 30 September 2018 / Published: 2 October 2018
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Abstract
One of the most intriguing questions in biological science is how life originated on Earth. A large number of hypotheses have been proposed to explain it, each putting an emphasis on different events leading to functional translation and self-sustained system. Here, we propose
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One of the most intriguing questions in biological science is how life originated on Earth. A large number of hypotheses have been proposed to explain it, each putting an emphasis on different events leading to functional translation and self-sustained system. Here, we propose a set of interactions that could have taken place in the prebiotic environment. According to our hypothesis, hybridization-induced proximity of short aminoacylated RNAs led to the synthesis of peptides of random sequence. We postulate that among these emerged a type of peptide(s) capable of stimulating the interaction between specific RNAs and specific amino acids, which we call “bridge peptide” (BP). We conclude that translation should have emerged at the same time when the standard genetic code begun to evolve due to the stabilizing effect on RNA-peptide complexes with the help of BPs. Ribosomes, ribozymes, and the enzyme-directed RNA replication could co-evolve within the same period, as logical outcome of RNA-peptide world without the need of RNA only self-sustained step. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Hypotheses in the Life Sciences)
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Open AccessArticle Efficient Arrangement of the Replication Fork Trap for In Vitro Propagation of Monomeric Circular DNA in the Chromosome-Replication Cycle Reaction
Received: 4 September 2018 / Revised: 22 September 2018 / Accepted: 23 September 2018 / Published: 25 September 2018
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Abstract
Propagation of genetic information is a fundamental prerequisite for living cells. We recently developed the replication cycle reaction (RCR), an in vitro reaction for circular DNA propagation, by reconstitution of the replication cycle of the Escherichia coli chromosome. In RCR, two replication forks
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Propagation of genetic information is a fundamental prerequisite for living cells. We recently developed the replication cycle reaction (RCR), an in vitro reaction for circular DNA propagation, by reconstitution of the replication cycle of the Escherichia coli chromosome. In RCR, two replication forks proceed bidirectionally from the replication origin, oriC, and meet at a region opposite oriC, yielding two copies of circular DNA. Although RCR essentially propagates supercoiled monomers, concatemer byproducts are also produced due to inefficient termination of the replication fork progression. Here, we examined the effect of the Tus-ter replication fork trap in RCR. Unexpectedly, when the fork traps were placed opposite oriC, mimicking their arrangement on the chromosome, the propagation of circular DNA was inhibited. On the other hand, fork traps flanking oriC allowed efficient propagation of circular DNA and repressed concatemer production. These findings suggest that collision of the two convergence forks through the fork trap is detrimental to repetition of the replication cycle. We further demonstrate that this detrimental effect was rescued by the UvrD helicase. These results provide insights into the way in which circular DNA monomers replicate repetitively without generating concatemers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Approaches toward Artificial Cell Construction and Applications)
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Open AccessArticle Formamide Adsorption at the Amorphous Silica Surface: A Combined Experimental and Computational Approach
Received: 10 September 2018 / Revised: 19 September 2018 / Accepted: 20 September 2018 / Published: 23 September 2018
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Abstract
Mineral surfaces have been demonstrated to play a central role in prebiotic reactions, which are understood to be at the basis of the origin of life. Among the various molecules proposed as precursors for these reactions, one of the most interesting is formamide.
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Mineral surfaces have been demonstrated to play a central role in prebiotic reactions, which are understood to be at the basis of the origin of life. Among the various molecules proposed as precursors for these reactions, one of the most interesting is formamide. Formamide has been shown to be a pluripotent molecule, generating a wide distribution of relevant prebiotic products. In particular, the outcomes of its reactivity are strongly related to the presence of mineral phases acting as catalysts toward specific reaction pathways. While the mineral–products relationship has been deeply studied for a large pool of materials, the fundamental description of formamide reactivity over mineral surfaces at a microscopic level is missing in the literature. In particular, a key step of formamide chemistry at surfaces is adsorption on available interaction sites. This report aims to investigate the adsorption of formamide over a well-defined amorphous silica, chosen as a model mineral surface. An experimental IR investigation of formamide adsorption was carried out and its outcomes were interpreted on the basis of first principles simulation of the process, adopting a realistic model of amorphous silica. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Minerals and Origins of Life)
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Open AccessReview Serpentinization: Connecting Geochemistry, Ancient Metabolism and Industrial Hydrogenation
Received: 27 August 2018 / Revised: 18 September 2018 / Accepted: 20 September 2018 / Published: 22 September 2018
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Abstract
Rock–water–carbon interactions germane to serpentinization in hydrothermal vents have occurred for over 4 billion years, ever since there was liquid water on Earth. Serpentinization converts iron(II) containing minerals and water to magnetite (Fe3O4) plus H2. The hydrogen
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Rock–water–carbon interactions germane to serpentinization in hydrothermal vents have occurred for over 4 billion years, ever since there was liquid water on Earth. Serpentinization converts iron(II) containing minerals and water to magnetite (Fe3O4) plus H2. The hydrogen can generate native metals such as awaruite (Ni3Fe), a common serpentinization product. Awaruite catalyzes the synthesis of methane from H2 and CO2 under hydrothermal conditions. Native iron and nickel catalyze the synthesis of formate, methanol, acetate, and pyruvate—intermediates of the acetyl-CoA pathway, the most ancient pathway of CO2 fixation. Carbon monoxide dehydrogenase (CODH) is central to the pathway and employs Ni0 in its catalytic mechanism. CODH has been conserved during 4 billion years of evolution as a relic of the natural CO2-reducing catalyst at the onset of biochemistry. The carbide-containing active site of nitrogenase—the only enzyme on Earth that reduces N2—is probably also a relic, a biological reconstruction of the naturally occurring inorganic catalyst that generated primordial organic nitrogen. Serpentinization generates Fe3O4 and H2, the catalyst and reductant for industrial CO2 hydrogenation and for N2 reduction via the Haber–Bosch process. In both industrial processes, an Fe3O4 catalyst is matured via H2-dependent reduction to generate Fe5C2 and Fe2N respectively. Whether serpentinization entails similar catalyst maturation is not known. We suggest that at the onset of life, essential reactions leading to reduced carbon and reduced nitrogen occurred with catalysts that were synthesized during the serpentinization process, connecting the chemistry of life and Earth to industrial chemistry in unexpected ways. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Geochemistry and the Origin of Life)
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Open AccessArticle Dissecting the Repertoire of DNA-Binding Transcription Factors of the Archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus DSM 3638
Received: 5 July 2018 / Revised: 11 September 2018 / Accepted: 19 September 2018 / Published: 21 September 2018
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Abstract
In recent years, there has been a large increase in the amount of experimental evidence for diverse archaeal organisms, and these findings allow for a comprehensive analysis of archaeal genetic organization. However, studies about regulatory mechanisms in this cellular domain are still limited.
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In recent years, there has been a large increase in the amount of experimental evidence for diverse archaeal organisms, and these findings allow for a comprehensive analysis of archaeal genetic organization. However, studies about regulatory mechanisms in this cellular domain are still limited. In this context, we identified a repertoire of 86 DNA-binding transcription factors (TFs) in the archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus DSM 3638, that are clustered into 32 evolutionary families. In structural terms, 45% of these proteins are composed of one structural domain, 41% have two domains, and 14% have three structural domains. The most abundant DNA-binding domain corresponds to the winged helix-turn-helix domain; with few alternative DNA-binding domains. We also identified seven regulons, which represent 13.5% (279 genes) of the total genes in this archaeon. These analyses increase our knowledge about gene regulation in P. furiosus DSM 3638 and provide additional clues for comprehensive modeling of transcriptional regulatory networks in the Archaea cellular domain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Life Sciences)
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Open AccessReview Geochemistry and the Origin of Life: From Extraterrestrial Processes, Chemical Evolution on Earth, Fossilized Life’s Records, to Natures of the Extant Life
Received: 10 August 2018 / Revised: 15 September 2018 / Accepted: 17 September 2018 / Published: 20 September 2018
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Abstract
In 2001, the first author (S.N.) led the publication of a book entitled “Geochemistry and the origin of life” in collaboration with Dr. Andre Brack aiming to figure out geo- and astro-chemical processes essential for the emergence of life. Since then, a great
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In 2001, the first author (S.N.) led the publication of a book entitled “Geochemistry and the origin of life” in collaboration with Dr. Andre Brack aiming to figure out geo- and astro-chemical processes essential for the emergence of life. Since then, a great number of research progress has been achieved in the relevant topics from our group and others, ranging from the extraterrestrial inputs of life’s building blocks, the chemical evolution on Earth with the aid of mineral catalysts, to the fossilized records of ancient microorganisms. Here, in addition to summarizing these findings for the origin and early evolution of life, we propose a new hypothesis for the generation and co-evolution of photosynthesis with the redox and photochemical conditions on the Earth’s surface. Besides these bottom-up approaches, we introduce an experimental study on the role of water molecules in the life’s function, focusing on the transition from live, dormant, and dead states through dehydration/hydration. Further spectroscopic studies on the hydrogen bonding behaviors of water molecules in living cells will provide important clues to solve the complex nature of life. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Geochemistry and the Origin of Life)
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Open AccessArticle Controlled Construction of Stable Network Structure Composed of Honeycomb-Shaped Microhydrogels
Received: 21 August 2018 / Revised: 14 September 2018 / Accepted: 16 September 2018 / Published: 20 September 2018
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Abstract
Recently, the construction of models for multicellular systems such as tissues has been attracting great interest. These model systems are expected to reproduce a cell communication network and provide insight into complicated functions in living systems./Such network structures have mainly been modelled using
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Recently, the construction of models for multicellular systems such as tissues has been attracting great interest. These model systems are expected to reproduce a cell communication network and provide insight into complicated functions in living systems./Such network structures have mainly been modelled using a droplet and a vesicle. However, in the droplet and vesicle network, there are difficulties attributed to structural instabilities due to external stimuli and perturbations. Thus, the fabrication of a network composed of a stable component such as hydrogel is desired. In this article, the construction of a stable network composed of honeycomb-shaped microhydrogels is described. We produced the microhydrogel network using a centrifugal microfluidic technique and a photosensitive polymer. In the network, densely packed honeycomb-shaped microhydrogels were observed. Additionally, we successfully controlled the degree of packing of microhydrogels in the network by changing the centrifugal force. We believe that our stable network will contribute to the study of cell communication in multicellular systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Approaches toward Artificial Cell Construction and Applications)
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