Retracing the modular evolution of Life by exploring extant genomes

Aktivität: VorträgeVortragScience to Science


The concept of a modular structure in life refers to the organization of living organisms into distinct functional units, or modules, which work together to perform specific tasks or functions [1]. These modules can be considered as discrete components that can be rearranged or combined in various ways to adapt to different environmental conditions or evolutionary pressures. In the context of bioenergetics evolution, this can be seen by the non-homologous replacement of complexes in a pathway or by the reshuffling of a set of “block pieces” to create new functions. At the core of such complexes are metal and organic cofactors or coenzymes that often participate in the redox reactions promoting the chemiosmosis coupling and oxidative phosphorylation [2].

The technologic progress of the last years is allowing to expand our knowledge regarding the living world not only by unraveling a myriad of previously unknown lineages, but also regarding the ways microbes conserve energy from the environment. At the origin of life, not all of the currently known bioenergetic solutions would have been present. On the other hand, it is becoming increasingly clear that the evolution of lineages (systematics) is decoupled from the evolution of the ways they harness energy from the environment for ATP production. The later is instead, tightly connected with Earth history.

The combination of large-scale comparative and phylogenetic analyses to study the evolution of the major modular players or “block pieces” frequently found in energy conservation solutions has been proven to be a powerful tool for unraveling the intricate relationships between energy conservation, evolutionary history, and functional diversity in the context of bioenergetics. Here, using a phylogenetic approach, we discuss our results regarding the evolution of the Dsr-pathway and it’s blocks, considering also Earth history and the potential evolution of earlier organisms [3,4].

1. Hartwell, L., et al. From molecular to modular cell biology. Nature 402 (Suppl 6761), (1999).
2. Mitchell, P. Chemiosmotic coupling in energy transduction: A logical development of biochemical knowledge". Journal of Bioenergetics. 3 (1), (1972).
3. Chernyl, N. et al. Dissimilatory sulfate reduction in the archaeon ‘Candidatus Vulcanisaeta moutnovskia’ sheds light on the evolution of sulfur metabolism. Nat. Microbiol 5(11), (2020)
4. Neukirchen, S., et al. (in revision)
Zeitraum20 Juni 2023
EreignistitelMolecular Origins of Life, Munich 2023: MOM2023
OrtMunich, DeutschlandAuf Karte anzeigen