The hard problems of the origin of life

Friday seminar by Eörs Szathmáry



Life is a symbiosis between templates, metabolism and membranes. The question is how such systems could have self-assembled in early chemical and biological evolution. Synthesis of organics can be achieved by various means, but we should also enquire about the origin of chemical supersystems, out of which some will show characteristics of life.

The main problem of the origin of life is the notorious presence of side reactions. In contemporary living systems enzymes are sufficient to ensure that required reactions win over side reactions, but of course one cannot start with enzymes in the earliest times. Spontaneous degradation of molecules, high mutation rates, nucleotide elongation competing with replication, and tar formation are all plagues to our understanding how life could have originated.

The RNA world idea at least helps us separate the very problem of the origin of life from that of the genetic code. Snags are that we do not know where RNA came from and we still do not have a functioning replicase ribozyme. In contrast, we have now a promising view of component processes that could have led to the origin of the genetic code. 

Eörs Szathmáry
Collegium Budapest and the Parmenides Foundation (Munich)


The seminar will be given in room 3508 in the Biology Building (Kristine Bonnevie's house) at Blindern. How to get to room 3508 (link).

This talk was originally scheduled as a part of a public seminar in March ("On the Origin of Life and Beyond"), but was rescheduled for Friday 5 June.

Published Feb. 6, 2012 2:41 PM