The complexity of modern biochemistry suggests that a systems biochemistry approach is required to understand and potentially recapitulate the network of prebiotic reactions that led to the emergence of life. Early cells probably relied upon interconnected chemistries to link nucleic acids, peptide-based catalysts and membranes. In this context, I will discuss our recent advancements about:
- what, how and when membrane-based compartments appeared on early Earth;
- whether primitive membranes could be compatible with prebiotic chemistries and metal-driven catalytic processes
- what biophysical or biochemical mechanisms could enable primitive cell cycles to retain continuity of function.
Addressing all these points can help us to elucidate the prebiotic pathways that led to the emergence of populations of functional primitive cells and, from there, the rise of life as we know it.
Claudia Bonfio is a Junior Group Leader at the Institute of Supramolecular Science and Engineering (ISIS) in Strasbourg, France. She obtained her PhD in biomolecular sciences at the University of Trento (supervisor: Professor S. Mansy), focusing on the synthesis and activity of primitive catalysts on early Earth. After her PhD, she moved to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge (UK) as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Fellow and then to the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge as an 1851 Research Fellow, where she tackled fundamental questions related to the emergence of functional primitive cells. Currently, her group focuses on prebiotic supramolecular chemistry, in particular on interactions between supramolecular structures and biomolecules. Her main scientific goal is to uncover the chemical principles that lead to primitive cells with essential life-like behaviours, by probing the interplay between primitive membranes and functional biomolecules