Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Origin of Life On Earth: Scientists Unlock Mystery Of Molecular Machine

Date:
March 1, 2009
Source:
University of Montreal
Summary:
A major mystery about the origins of life may have been resolved. Scientists have proposed a new theory for how a universal molecular machine, the ribosome, managed to self-assemble as a critical step in the genesis of all life on Earth.

A major mystery about the origins of life has been resolved. According to a study published in the journal Nature, two Université de Montréal scientists have proposed a new theory for how a universal molecular machine, the ribosome, managed to self-assemble as a critical step in the genesis of all life on Earth.

"While the ribosome is a complex structure it features a clear hierarchy that emerged based on basic chemical principles," says Sergey Steinberg, a Université de Montréal biochemistry professor who made his discovery with student Konstantin Bokov. "In the absence of such explanations, some people could imagine unseen forces at work when such complex structures emerge in nature."

What is a ribosome?

The ribosome is an enormous molecule responsible for translating the messages carried in the genetic code of all organisms into the workhorse molecules of the cell – proteins – that carry out all functions, including replicating the genome itself. As the world celebrates the bicentennial anniversary of the Father of Evolution, Charles Darwin, Prof. Steinberg's theory brings the scientific community even deeper into the study of the origins of life.

By examining the molecular self-organizing processes that preceded the living cell, the point where time begins for biologists, Prof. Steinberg goes further than Darwin and the many evolutionary biologists who followed could have imagined

By the standards of biological molecules, ribosomes are immense. Though visible only through lenses of the most powerful microscopes, comparing most other biological molecules to this behemoth is like comparing a tricycle to a jumbo jet. Having spent years gazing at the detailed structure of the ribosome, Prof. Steinberg pondered how such an immense and complex structure could have assembled itself from smaller building blocks that existed on the early Earth.

From the simple to the complex

The key breakthrough came when he realized that the ribosome is organized by a set of simple structural rules and that it had to be assembled from basic building blocks in a very specific order; otherwise it would have fallen apart. He then showed with mathematical rigor that the construction of the ribosome likely followed an ordered series of steps to form the structure found in the first living cell. To this day, that structure exists almost unchanged in our own cells.

Chemists have been able to observe many examples of self-organizing behavior with simple molecules, yet explaining the complex self-assembly of biomolecules had not been so obvious.

"Thanks to the research of Sergey Steinberg and Konstantin Bokov, scientists now have a glimpse of one key event that emerged spontaneously out of the primordial chemical soup of the early Earth," explains Stephen Michnick, a Université de Montréal biochemistry professor and Canada Research Chair in Integrative Genomics. "Perhaps in the near future we may look forward to more discoveries that will take us beyond the world of Darwin into an understanding of the basic chemical principles that drove the emergence of life on our planet and perhaps beyond."

Professor Steinberg's research is supported by Canadian Institutes of Health Research and by the National Science and Engineering Research Council.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Montreal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Montreal. "Origin of Life On Earth: Scientists Unlock Mystery Of Molecular Machine." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090219105324.htm>.
University of Montreal. (2009, March 1). Origin of Life On Earth: Scientists Unlock Mystery Of Molecular Machine. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090219105324.htm
University of Montreal. "Origin of Life On Earth: Scientists Unlock Mystery Of Molecular Machine." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090219105324.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) — U-576, a long-lost German U-boat the U.S. sank in 1942, has been found just 30 miles off North Carolina's coast and near the wreckage of another ship. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — After testing DNA from a shawl found near one of Jack the Ripper's victims, a scientist said he'd identified the killer. New reports refute the claim. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins