Nick Lane (London University College, Evolutionary Biochemistry)

Thursday June 27 2019 at 16h

Leiden University, Gorlaeus Laboratories, Bètawetenschappen LUMY 04.28,  Einsteinweg 55 2333 CC Leiden
Drinks after the lecture


Cells need a continuous flow of energy and matter to grow. All life on Earth uses the unanticipated mechanism of electrochemical charges across membranes to generate ATP and to fix CO2. The protein machinery required to generate and harness this charge is extremely sophisticated, raising the question of how such a universally conserved process arose in early cells. I will use the mechanism of CO2 fixation in methanogens as a guide to the possible prebiotic origins of growth and intermediary metabolism. I will show that equivalent electrochemical gradients are found across inorganic pores in alkaline hydrothermal vents, and that proton flux may have driven the difficult reaction between H2,/sub> and CO2 to form organic matter and ultimately the first cells.


Nick Lane is professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London. His research focuses on how energy flow constrains evolution from the origin of life to the traits of complex multicellular organisms. He is a co-director of the new Centre for Life’s Origins and Evolution (CLOE) at UCL, and author of four celebrated books on life’s origin and evolution (his most recent book, 2015: The Vital Question: Why is Life the Way it is? – Energy, Evolution and the Origins of Complex Life). His work has been recognized by the Biochemical Society Award in 2015 and the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize in 2016.

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We just received the news that Marc de Jonge suddenly passed away. A senior policy adviser with the Dutch Science Organisation NWO, Marc has been instrumental in setting the scene for the Origins Center. From the definition of the ‘Routes’ – main research subjects connecting disciplines, institutes, researchers, and the public at large – within the Dutch Research Agenda onward, he was the person that, thanks to his vast knowledge of the scientific landscape in the Netherlands, connected the life sciences to the geosciences, chemistry, biophysics, astronomy, and computer sciences and mathematics into what we now call the Origins Center. Marc stimulated participation in workshops and knew the way to the NWO funding schemes for connecting scientists. Marc was stimulating and supportive, with a keen eye for pitfalls (and how to avoid these) and always with a touch of humour. After a year of absence he was recently connected again to Science Agenda’s Route 15 on the Origins of Life, and we looked forward to a renewed collaboration. Unfortunately his untimely death prevents this. We will surely miss Marc.

On behalf of the Origins Center,

Inge Loes ten Kate
Frank Helmich
Rens Waters
Jan-Willem Mantel

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