Special Issue "Selected Papers from the 2021 NoR CEL Conference"

A special issue of Life (ISSN 2075-1729). This special issue belongs to the section "Origin of Life".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Sohan Jheeta
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
NoR CEL, 1 Scott Hall Crescent, Leeds LS7 3RB, UK
Interests: origin of life; RNA world; panspermia; hydrothermal vent; horizontal gene transfer; tree of life; phylogenetics; extraterrestrial life; astrochemistry
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Elias Chatzitheodoridis
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
National Technical University of Athens, School of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering, Department of Geological Sciences, 9 Heroon Polytechneiou str., GR-15780 Zografou, Athens, Greece
Interests: martian meteorites; alteration processes and minerals; astrobiology; biosignatures
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Martin Dominik
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Physics & Astronomy, Physical Science Building, North Haugh, St Andrews, UK
Interests: gravitational lensing; application of galactic microlensing for studying; extra-solar planets; stellar and brown-dwarf binaries; stellar atmospheres; galactic dark matter; dynamical structure of the galaxy and its neighbours

Special Issue Information

How did it all begin…?

The exact origin of life remains an unfathomable mystery; however, this does not mean that it will always remain so. Given that life on Earth did emerge, there must have been physicochemical reactions that allowed this to happen. The Universe harbors at least 150 billion galaxies, and assuming each galaxy contains approximately 200 billion stars, this increases the probability of the existence of the necessary physicochemical reactions and conditions which would encourage the emergence and evolution of life elsewhere in the Universe.

The Network of Researchers on the Chemical Evolution of Life (NoR CEL) is a group which comes together biennially to thrash out how life on Earth both emerged and evolved. The group is an independent entity, and we invite both practitioners in the origin of life (OOL) research and non-OOL scientists such as cancer specialists; medical, plant and animal virologists; and geneticists and paleontologists. This is because we believe that the answers to the question of the origin of life may, in part, rest with these scientists. Thus, it is with this in mind that both practitioners in the OOL and non-OOL scientists (within the field of life science) are invited to submit research papers for the purpose of cataloguing our current knowledge in the field of the OOL.

To augment this, we are holding our 5th NoR CEL conference at the University of St Andrews on 25 to 27 August 2021. We invite all interested scientists to attend. Please visit our website in order to register http://www.nor-cel.com/Conference-registration-.html

Dr. Sohan Jheeta
Dr. Elias Chatzitheodoridis
Prof. Dr. Martin Dominik
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Life is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • origin of life
  • chemical evolution

Published Papers (2 papers)

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Research

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Article
The Way forward for the Origin of Life: Prions and Prion-Like Molecules First Hypothesis
Life 2021, 11(9), 872; https://doi.org/10.3390/life11090872 - 25 Aug 2021
Viewed by 716
Abstract
In this paper the hypothesis that prions and prion-like molecules could have initiated the chemical evolutionary process which led to the eventual emergence of life is reappraised. The prions first hypothesis is a specific application of the protein-first hypothesis which asserts that protein-based [...] Read more.
In this paper the hypothesis that prions and prion-like molecules could have initiated the chemical evolutionary process which led to the eventual emergence of life is reappraised. The prions first hypothesis is a specific application of the protein-first hypothesis which asserts that protein-based chemical evolution preceded the evolution of genetic encoding processes. This genetics-first hypothesis asserts that an “RNA-world era” came before protein-based chemical evolution and rests on a singular premise that molecules such as RNA, acetyl-CoA, and NAD are relics of a long line of chemical evolutionary processes preceding the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA). Nevertheless, we assert that prions and prion-like molecules may also be relics of chemical evolutionary processes preceding LUCA. To support this assertion is the observation that prions and prion-like molecules are involved in a plethora of activities in contemporary biology in both complex (eukaryotes) and primitive life forms. Furthermore, a literature survey reveals that small RNA virus genomes harbor information about prions (and amyloids). If, as has been presumed by proponents of the genetics-first hypotheses, small viruses were present during an RNA world era and were involved in some of the earliest evolutionary processes, this places prions and prion-like molecules potentially at the heart of the chemical evolutionary process whose eventual outcome was life. We deliberate on the case for prions and prion-like molecules as the frontier molecules at the dawn of evolution of living systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Selected Papers from the 2021 NoR CEL Conference)
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Review

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Review
De Novo Nucleic Acids: A Review of Synthetic Alternatives to DNA and RNA That Could Act as Bio-Information Storage Molecules
Life 2020, 10(12), 346; https://doi.org/10.3390/life10120346 - 11 Dec 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1287
Abstract
Modern terran life uses several essential biopolymers like nucleic acids, proteins and polysaccharides. The nucleic acids, DNA and RNA are arguably life’s most important, acting as the stores and translators of genetic information contained in their base sequences, which ultimately manifest themselves in [...] Read more.
Modern terran life uses several essential biopolymers like nucleic acids, proteins and polysaccharides. The nucleic acids, DNA and RNA are arguably life’s most important, acting as the stores and translators of genetic information contained in their base sequences, which ultimately manifest themselves in the amino acid sequences of proteins. But just what is it about their structures; an aromatic heterocyclic base appended to a (five-atom ring) sugar-phosphate backbone that enables them to carry out these functions with such high fidelity? In the past three decades, leading chemists have created in their laboratories synthetic analogues of nucleic acids which differ from their natural counterparts in three key areas as follows: (a) replacement of the phosphate moiety with an uncharged analogue, (b) replacement of the pentose sugars ribose and deoxyribose with alternative acyclic, pentose and hexose derivatives and, finally, (c) replacement of the two heterocyclic base pairs adenine/thymine and guanine/cytosine with non-standard analogues that obey the Watson–Crick pairing rules. This manuscript will examine in detail the physical and chemical properties of these synthetic nucleic acid analogues, in particular on their abilities to serve as conveyors of genetic information. If life exists elsewhere in the universe, will it also use DNA and RNA? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Selected Papers from the 2021 NoR CEL Conference)
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