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In Search of Cell HistoryThe Evolution of Life's Building Blocks$
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Franklin M. Harold

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226174143

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226174310.001.0001

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The Deep Roots of Cellular Life

The Deep Roots of Cellular Life

The Common Ancestry of Living Things

(p.51) Chapter Four The Deep Roots of Cellular Life
In Search of Cell History

Franklin M. Harold

University of Chicago Press

The hypothesis that all living things share a common ancestry was already part of Darwin's thinking. It crystallized in the 20th century and became solidly established with the recognition that basic molecular strategies are universal, including transcription, translation and especially the genetic code. LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, is represented on the universal tree by its deepest node, that which marks the divergence of Bacteria from Archaea/Eukarya. The nature of that entity has been much debated and remains controversial. It now appears that LUCA was a much more advanced organism than originally expected, endowed with genes, membranes, enzymes, metabolism and the basic mechanisms of gene expression, replication and energy transduction. LUCA was a cell of sorts, but probably represents a stage before discrete lineages, whose members swapped genes and evolved communally. The chapter concludes with a brief presentation of dissenting opinions, chiefly those of Thomas Cavalier-Smith, Radhey Gupta and James Lake.

Keywords:   universal ancestry, Last Universal Common Ancestor, LUCA, alternative phylogenies, Thomas Cavalier-Smith, James Lake

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