Proposed ancestors of phage nucleic acid packaging motors (and cells)

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7 Scopus citations


I present a hypothesis that begins with the proposal that abiotic ancestors of phage RNA and DNA packaging systems (and cells) include mobile shells with an internal, molecule-transporting cavity. The foundations of this hypothesis include the conjecture that current nucleic acid packaging systems have imprints from abiotic ancestors. The abiotic shells (1) initially imbibe and later also bind and transport organic molecules, thereby providing a means for producing molecular interactions that are links in the chain of events that produces ancestors to the first molecules that are both information carrying and enzymatically active, and (2) are subsequently scaffolds on which proteins assemble to form ancestors common to both shells of viral capsids and cell membranes. Emergence of cells occurs via aggregation and merger of shells and internal contents. The hypothesis continues by using proposed imprints of abiotic and biotic ancestors to deduce an ancestral thermal ratchet-based DNA packaging motor that subsequently evolves to integrate a DNA. packaging ATPase that provides a power stroke.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1249-1280
Number of pages32
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Abiotic ancestors
  • Bacteriophage structure
  • Biological energy transduction
  • Information-carrying polymers
  • Thermal ratchet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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