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3rd NoR HGT & LUCA conference: 3rd and 4th November 2016

The landscape of the emergence of life

(The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK)

It’s been approximately 3.8 billion years since the first emergence of Archaea, Bacteria and later Eukarya (the latter being the chimera of the first two) from the last universal cellular ancestor (LUCA) of all living entities; LUCA being the hypothesised organism present at the dawn of the origin of life. Billions of years of evolution resulted in the appearance of the intelligent life form, Homo sapiens and, like our Homo sapien forebears we still hanker to know, more than ever before, where we come from and whether there is life elsewhere in the Universe? There are no easy answers to such questions, as the landscape of the emergence of life has always been mind-bogglingly complex with definitive answers proving elusive, even before Charles Darwin first postulated that life may have arisen in a ‘warm little pond’. However, with the advent of new techniques in the fields of phylogenetics and phylogenomics; systems and synthetics biology; comparative and meta-genomics; and bio-informatics, as well as improved methods in the detection of microRNAs within cellular life forms and species of viruses, we are beginning to peel back the layers of the metaphoric onion of life’s origins. In this endeavor, we hope to unearth the tweaking of LUCA’s genetics before it developed into the 3 domains of life which we recognise today. LUCA is hypothesised to be an almost fully cellular organism within a cellular boundary and with DNA as its code carrier, however, it is suggested that prior to LUCA there was another organism with a cellular boundary but which had RNA as the code carrier; this organism is known as preLUCA. Viruses were also present at the same time as these entities and they are thought to be instrumental in the fine-tuning of LUCA’s genetics – for example it is believed that the replication of DNA in cellular life is of viral origin. This fine-tuning was carried out via the process of horizontal gene transfer (HGT).

We will explore various aspects of the preLUCA, LUCA and virus connections via HGT. Contributory oral presentations are invited from scientists wishing to partake in unlocking the mysteries that led to the emergence of the 3 domains of life.

For further information about our conference, please email Dr Sohan Jheeta:


Prof Elias Chatzitheodoridis, National Technical University of Athens, Greece
Dr Sohan Jheeta, Independent Research Scientist, UK
Dr Martin Dominik, University of St Andrews, UK
Prof Nigel Mason, The Open University, UK



2016 Conference

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Network of Researchers on Horizontal Gene Transfer and Last Universal Common Ancestor | HGT | LUCA | RNA | Origin of Life | Viruses | DNA
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