Friday, October 22, 2010

Thank God for Mitochondria

Michael Le Page informs us of a hypothesis that "overturns the traditional view that the jump to complex eukaryotic cells simply required the right kinds of mutations" — Why complex life probably evolved only once. (I've always thought we were alone.)

The hypothesis, coming from Nick Lane of University College London and Bill Martin of the University of Dusseldorf in Germany, begins with that point in evolutionary history in which "a cell engulfed some bacteria and started using them as power generators – the first mitochondria." (This a graduate student in bioinformatics explained to me a while ago.) The researchers, however, suggest "the textbook idea that complex cells evolved first and only later gained mitochondria is completely wrong: cells could not become complex until they acquired mitochondria."

The conclusion: "Simple cells hardly ever engulf other cells, however – and therein lies the catch. Acquiring mitochondria, it seems, was a one-off event."


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