Research highlight

Cell Biology: Model protocell may predict primordial cell cycle

Nature Communications

September 30, 2015

Artificial cells created in a laboratory may help explain how primitive living cells first evolved the ability to replicate, reports a study published in Nature Communications.

Researchers had previously created model cells by packaging proteins and DNA into tiny spheres of lipids. They were able to manipulate these model cells into duplicating DNA and splitting in two, but were unable to replicate the cell cycle - the process by which living cells continuously grow and divide.

Tadashi Sugawara and colleagues imitated this replicative feature by developing a simple method to fuse the newly divided artificial cells with other cell-mimicking lipid spheres. This provides the newly formed artificial cells with all the proteins, lipids and DNA required to restart the process, thereby creating a model of the cell cycle in an artificial laboratory setting.

Given the minimal amount of biological material used in this simulated version, it may provide a plausible scenario for how primitive single-cell organisms first evolved the ability to self-replicate.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms9352

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