January 08, 2013
Noyce Conference Room
Paul G. Falkowski (Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program, Rutgers University)
Abstract. Life is far from thermodynamic equilibrium. Over the past decade, together with collaborators, I have been analyzing the biochemical reactions responsible for energy generation in all organisms, and we have identified a set of ~500 “core” genes which encode for the energy transduction systems on a planetary scale. In this lecture, I will examine the evolutionary trajectory of these core reactions, culminating in the splitting of water by light and the use of oxygen as a terminal electron acceptor by aerobic microbes. These two, and fifteen other processes, form a global electronic circuit, where individual organisms essentially are transistors on a planetary circuit board. The wires are the two primary geophysical fluids: the ocean and the atmosphere. The primary power supply is solar energy. The output is a self-replicating system that decreases entropy at the cost of increased energy dissipation; a condition that is not amenable to classical Boltzmann functions. The system has a limited number of transistor designs. We have identified 35 basic structural elements, which appear to have a single common ancestor with a core Fe4S4 motif. We are attempting to develop a phylogeny of the core motifs in an effort to understand the evolution of biologically catalyzed redox reactions.
Purpose: Research Collaboration
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