We hear from the ECLT network / 2021

"Self-reproducing catalytic micelles as early nanoscopic protocells"

Doron Lancet
ECLT Science Board

Joined the Weizmann Institute faculty in 1981, where he is currently the incumbent of the Silver Professorial Chair in Human Genomics and Head of the Crown Human Genome Center. Prof. Lancet has played a key role in establishing genome research in Israel, headed a Ministry of Science genome infrastructure center (1995-2005) and is currently involved in the establishment of a National Center for Personalized Medicine at Weizmann.

23rd April 2021, 3 PM

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Abstract:

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, with Israel Pecht and Michael Sela, from the Weizmann Institute of Science. Following postdoctoral training at Harvard (Jack Strominger) and Yale (Gordon Shepherd), he joined the Weizmann Institute faculty in 1981, where he is currently the incumbent of the Silver Professorial Chair in Human Genomics and Head of the Crown Human Genome Center. Prof. Lancet has played a key role in establishing genome research in Israel, headed a Ministry of Science genome infrastructure center (1995-2005) and is currently involved in the establishment of a National Center for Personalized Medicine at Weizmann.