Assembly of a Minimal Protocell

Event Sponsor: 
Biosciences Division Seminar
Start Date: 
Jul 2 2009 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm
Building 202, Conference Room B169
Argonne National Laboratory
Steen Rasmussen
Speaker(s) Title: 
University of Southern Denmark
Liaohai Chen

For the last five years a network of research institutions in Europe and the US (including Argonne) have collaborated on the assembly of a minimal protocell - a self-replication system with tightly coupled catalytic cooperation among "genes", metabolism, and container. In this talk I will report scientific progress and challenges for this work as well as discuss a vision for a "living technology" in part based on our ability to assemble artificial "living" materials. Experimentally, we have recently demonstrated this coupling by having an informational molecule (8-oxoguanine) catalytically control the light driven metabolic (Ru-bpy based) production of container materials (fatty acids). This is a significant milestone towards assembling a minimal self-replicating molecular machine. Work in progress for our container associated gene-replication system will also be presented.

Coupling is needed between the gene-metabolism-container system and the container associated gene-replication system to form a functional protocell. I present a variety of physics based simulation (molecular dynamics, dissipative particle dynamics and reaction kinetics) of the coupled protocell components and its life-cycle, and they expose a number of anticipated systemic challenges associated with the remaining experimental implementation of the protocell. Finally I will outline how simple self-replicating materials could be useful as part of "living technology", a central component of the nano-bio-info-cogno (NBIC) knowledge convergence, and sketch how the protocell work might provide new clues to the origin of life.

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