Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers are proposing that the first battle for survival-of-the-fittest might have played out as a simple physical duel between fatty bubbles stuffed with genetic material. The scientists suggest that genetic material that replicated quickly may have been all the bubbles needed to edge out their competitors and begin evolving into more sophisticated cells.
This possibility, revealed by laboratory experiments with artificial fatty acid sacs, is in sharp contrast to a current theory of the earliest evolution of cells, which suggests that cellular evolution was driven by primordial genetic machinery that actively synthesized cell membranes or otherwise influenced cell stability or division.
The researchers, led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Jack W. Szostak, published their findings in the September 3, 2004, issue of the journal Science. Szostak and first author Irene Chen, both from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, collaborated on the studies with Richard Roberts of the California Institute of Technology.
Jennifer Michalowski | EurekAlert!
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