23 Apr 2021 15:00

Self-reproducing catalytic micelles as early nanoscopic protocells


We hear from the ECLT network 2021

"Self-reproducing catalytic micelles as early nanoscopic protocells"

Doron Lancet
ECLT Science Board and General Assembly member

Joined the Weizmann Institute faculty in 1981, where he is currently Full Professor at the Department of Molecular Genetics. Prof. Lancet has played a key role in establishing genome research in Israel, and headed Weizmann’s Crown Human Genome Center for 20 years (1995-2015). Lancet is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) since 1996.

23rd April 2021, 3 PM

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We have proposed a model for life’s emergence, involving assemblies of lipids that, upon biased accretion and fission, pass compositional information to progeny (1,2). Our computational chemistry formalism (GARD) depicts non-equilibrium catalytic lipid networks with homeostatic growth, showing reproduction with mutations, hence a capacity for selection and evolution. The likely emergence of reproducing lipid-based nanoscopic micellar protocells lends credence to the idea that RNA and proteins were an evolutionary outcome, not a prerequisite for life’s emergence (figure). We have gathered comprehensive published experimental support for catalysis and reproduction-like behavior in lipid micelles, making the GARD model more credible. In parallel, we have applied Molecular Dynamics simulations (3) to support the occurrence homeostatic growth in heterogeneous micelles. Finally, our advanced GARD nature-like chemical kinetics simulations show that reproducing catalytic networks display attractor behavior (2), pointing to better reproduction states.
This revolutionary finding could mean a greatly enhanced probability of life’s emergence in the universe.

1. Segre, D., Ben-Eli, D. and Lancet, D.  Compositional genomes: prebiotic information transfer in mutually catalytic non-covalent assemblies.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci (USA) 97 (8): 4112-4117 (2000).

2. Lancet D, Zidovetzki R, Markovitch O. Systems protobiology: origin of life in lipid catalytic networks. J. Royal Soc. Interface 15: 20180159. (2018) 

3. Kahana, A and Lancet, D, Protobiotic Systems Chemistry Analyzed by Molecular Dynamics, Life 9(2), 38 (2019). 

Bio sketch:

Prof. Lancet earned his BSc in chemistry from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and his PhD is in Chemical Immunology from the Weizmann Institute of Science. Following postdoctoral training at Harvard and Yale, he joined Weizmann’s faculty in 1981 and is Full Professor there since 1993. Prof. Lancet pioneered the biomolecular decipherment of the sense of smell, and studied the genomic basis of olfaction and of human diseases. For this, he developed GeneCards, a web database for human genes, used by 4 million scientists worldwide. In the last 25 years, Lancet established a novel Lipid World scenario for life’s origin, described in ~50 publications. This scenario, based on rigorous chemical scrutiny, suggests that combinatorial lipid assemblies could preceeded RNA polymers as the first evolving entities.


The event will be held in English

Organized by

ECLT European Centre for Living Technology


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