One of the great questions in biology is “How did life begin?”. It is thought that RNA may have played a major role in the process through the so-called RNA world hypothesis. We are collaborating with Christine Keating’s lab at Penn State to address physical means that may have aided the emergence of life through the localization and improvement of catalysis. We are evaluating compartmentalization driven by aqueous phase separation as a potential physicochemical mechanism to concentrate and help chaperone the folding, multiple turnover, and evolution of rare catalytic RNA molecules. We are also addressing how compartmentalization may facilitate the assembly of progenitor membranes as a step towards protocell formation. Accomplishing these goals will provide insight into the early evolution of life on this and other planets.
Christine Keating (Penn State University)
1. Strulson, C. A., Molden, R. C., Keating, C. D., Bevilacqua, P. C. “RNA catalysis through compartmentalization” Nature Chemistry 4, 941-946 (2012).[Pubmed]
2. Dewey, D. C. Strulson, C. A., Cacace, D. N., Bevilacqua, P. C., and Keating, C. D. “Bioreactor droplets from liposome-stabilized all-aqueous emulsions.” Nature Comm. 5, 4670 (2014). [PubMed]
1. Frankel, E., Dewey, D., Keating, C. “Encapsulation of Organic Material in the Protocells.” Astrobiology, an Evolutionary Approach. Ed. Kolb, V.: CRC Press, 2014. Print.