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Energy and Matter at the Origin of Life

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There is a paradox at the base of life. Membrane bioenergetics – the use of ion gradients across membranes to drive carbon and energy metabolism – are universal, but membranes are not. Radical differences between bacteria and archaea in membrane chemistry and active ion pumping suggest that LUCA , the last universal common ancestor of all life, may have used natural proton gradients in alkaline hydrothermal vents to drive growth. Dr Nick Lane will outline a possible scenario for the origin of life in this environment, and present some experimental results which suggest that proton gradients across inorganic barriers could have driven the transition from geochemistry to biochemistry.

Dr. Nick Lane is the Reader in Evolutionary Biochemistry in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at UCL . He was the winner of the 2015 Biochemical Society Award, and author of the popular science books “Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life”, “Oxygen: The molecule that made the world” and “Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution”, which won the 2010 Royal Society Prize for Science Books.

This talk is part of the Stokes Society, Pembroke College series.

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