UCL Division of Biosciences


Origins of Life and of Major Innovations

The incredible complexity of the life we are familiar with today emerged through a series of major innovations beginning with the origin of life itself.  Using a combination of approaches and models and focusing on a variety of branches in the tree of life, several research labs in CLOE are trying to understand the processes leading to these key events and the contexts in which these major transitions in evolution occurred.

The origin of life was an extraordinary transition from chemistry to biochemistry, from inorganic and organic compounds to self-replicating biological molecules and membrane surrounded cells.

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Key innovations we study include the origin of the universal genetic code that controls the translation of nucleic acid into protein; the origin of the diverse lineages of prokaryotes;  the endosymbiotic events that led to the emergence of eukaryotes and to green plants; and the evolution of sex, recombination and multicellularity.

Multiple approaches are used by researchers at CLOE to study the energetics of life, the origin of plants and animals using molecular evolution and experimental tools.

Some of the projects in CLOE on the origins of key innovation of life include:

- Experiments to test theories for the origins of life

- How biochemistry can arise from pre-biotic geochemical evolution

- The evolution of co-operation and multicellularity 

- The evolution of eukaryote complexity and the influence of mitochondria 

Research Labs