Chapter 4 Notes
The Origin of Life
The Nature of Selection
There are a number of good general references on the origin of life. See Knoll (2003), Fenchel (2002), Gesteland and Atkins (1993), Gesteland et al. (1999, 2006), and Orgel (1998).
In the chapter introduction, we provide a definition of life, which is based upon what is referred to as the “NASA definition of life.” For more information on this and other definitions of life, see Joyce (1994), Luisi (1998), Fenchel (2002), and Rasmussen et al. (2004).
When Did Life Begin on Earth?
An excellent web resource is available from the United States Geological Survey at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/, including a chapter on radiometric dating at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/radiometric.html.
Other good web resources about determining the age of rocks and fossils are “Clocks in the Rocks,” by C.R. Nave at http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nuclear/clkroc.html; “Fossils, Rocks and Time,” by Lucy Edwards and John Pojeta at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/fossils/contents.html; “The Earth through Time,” by Harold L. Levin at http://www3.interscience.wiley.com:8100/legacy/college/levin/0470000201/chap_tutorial/ch01/chapter01-3.html.
Estimates of the Age of the Earth Place a Lower Boundary on When Life Began
More information on the geological approach using gneiss and zircon dating is available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/age.html.
For more on the planetological approach, see http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/age.html.
Additional information can be found in Chapter 3 of Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth, by Andrew Knoll (2003).
Fossil Evidence and Comparisons of Modern Organisms Suggest That Life Evolved Soon after Earth Was Hospitable
Various views on the fossil evidence for early cellular life are presented in Brasier et al. (2006) and Schopf (2006).
For a discussion of early photosynthesis, see Olson (2006).
Chapters 3 and 4 from Knoll (2003) are a good presentation of what life may have been like on a young planet.
How Did Life Begin on Earth?
We outlined the essential steps for the origin of life (see p. 92ff). These are based largely on a review paper by Joyce (2002). For additional discussions on this topic, see de Duve (1987) and Orgel (1998).
Many Molecules Required for Life Can Be Created by Chemical or Physical Means
A general discussion of this topic is in Chapter 3 of The Origin and Early Evolution of Life by Thomas Fenchel (2002).
Wohler’s work on urea synthesis in 1828 is summarized in The Centenary of Wöhler’s Synthesis of Urea (1828–1928), by Frederick Gowland Hopkins (1928).
The original paper describing the synthesis of alanine is Strecker (1850).
Both Oparin and Haldane wrote about the early conditions on Earth, including the presence of a reducing atmosphere. Their presentations set the stage for the classic experiments of Miller and Urey, and others. See Oparin (1924, 1976) and Haldane (1929).
Miller and Urey’s classic papers on their prebiotic synthesis experiments include Miller (1953) and Miller and Urey (1959a,b).
As noted on p. 93, recent studies have reexamined the early conditions on Earth and the types of chemical reactions that may have taken place under those conditions. A good review on this subject is Bada and Lazcano (2003). Also see Lazcano (2001).
An exploration of the reducing environment in outer space and analyses of the Murchison meteorite as a site of prebiotic synthesis are discussed by Lerner and Cooper (2003) and Peltzer and Bada (1978).
Modern deep sea environments are discussed in Van Dover et al. (2002) and Van Dover (2000).
More general discussions on the where and how of prebiotic molecular syntheses are discussed in Orgel (1998) and Wächtershäuser (1992). Whether life arose on Earth under high temperature conditions has been explored by examining the impact of temperature on RNA folding in Moulton et al. (2000).
Chemical Reactions Can “Evolve” to Produce Complicated Molecules and Primitive Metabolism
For more on this topic, see Chemical Evolution by Melvin Calvin (1961), an older reference that still has some good material.
The polymerization of DNA from RNA is from Lewis and Hanawalt (1982). Nucleation of monomers is based on Maynard Smith and Szathmáry (1995). More on the evolution of metabolism is in Wächtershäuser (1988).
Orgel (2000) has a discussion of closed cycles. Hanczyc et al. (2003) report on the role of clays in accelerating the spontaneous conversion of fatty acid micelles into vesicles. Also see Hazen (2001) for a discussion of the roles rocks and clays could have played as sites of primitive metabolism.
Self-Replication Is Necessary for Evolution
Our discussion of self-replication is based in large part on The Major Transitions in Evolution, by Maynard Smith and Szathmáry (1995). Additional information on self-replicating molecules can be found in Rebek (1994) and Eigen et al. (1981).
Compartmentalization Facilitates Self-Organization and Accelerated Evolution
Maynard Smith and Szathmáry (1995) contains a general discussion of compartmentalization and its role in prebiotic evolution. Hanczyc and Szostak (2004) provide a review on replicating vesicles as models of primitive growth and division. Hazen (2001) discusses the role of iron sulfide rocks in self-organizing systems in an article for general audiences.
Manfred Eigen’s original papers on self-organization include Eigen (1971a,b). For an example of experimental studies on compartmentalization, see Hanczyc et al. (2003).
The Chicken-and-Egg Problem Solved: RNA Can Serve a Dual Role as Information Carrier and Catalyst
For a general discussion of the dual roles of RNA in the pre-DNA world, see Joyce and Orgel in The RNA World (1993). A good review of RNA catalytic possibilities is by Doudna and Cech (2002). The antiquity of RNA-based evolution is considered by Joyce (2002).
Leaving the RNA World Required the Evolution of the Translation System and the Genetic Code
General discussions on this topic include Schimmel and Ribas de Pouplana (1999), Di Giulio (2005), Schimmel et al. (1993), and Cedergren and Miramontes (1996).
More on Francis Crick’s important contribution to our understanding of the genetic code is in Crick (1968). Carl Woese’s sterochemical theory is discussed in his book The Genetic Code (1967). The origin of the genetic code is reviewed by Knight et al. (1999).
DNA Replaces RNA
The evolutionary transition from RNA to DNA in early cells has been studied by a number of investigators; see Lazcano (1988) and Forterre (2005, 2002).
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