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Autonomous DNA Evolution in a Molecule Trap

Objective

How can we create molecular life in the lab?
That is, can we drive evolvable DNA/RNA-machines under a simple nonequilibrium setting? We will trigger basic forms
of autonomous Darwinian evolution by implementing replication, mutation and selection on the molecular level in a single
micro-chamber? We will explore protein-free replication schemes to tackle the Eigen-Paradox of replication and translation
under archaic nonequilibrium settings. The conditions mimic thermal gradients in porous rock near hydrothermal vents on the
early earth. We are in a unique position to pursue these questions due to our previous inventions of convective replication,
optothermal molecule traps and light driven microfluidics. Four interconnected strategies are pursued ranging from basic
replication using tRNA-like hairpins, entropic cooling or UV degradation down to protein-based DNA evolution in a trap, all
with biotechnological applications. The approach is risky, however very interesting physics and biology on the way. We will:
(i) Replicate DNA with continuous, convective PCR in the selection of a thermal molecule trap
(ii) Replicate sequences with metastable, tRNA-like hairpins exponentially
(iii) Build DNA complexes by structure-selective trapping to replicate by entropic decay
(iv) Drive replication by Laser-based UV degradation
Both replication and trapping are exponential processes, yielding in combination a highly nonlinear dynamics. We proceed
along publishable steps and implement highly efficient modes of continuous molecular evolution. As shown in the past, we
will create biotechnological applications from basic scientific questions (see our NanoTemper Startup). The starting grant will
allow us to compete with Jack Szostak who very recently picked up our approach [JACS 131, 9628 (2009)].

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/genetics and heredity/mutation
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/molecular biology/molecular evolution

Call for proposal

ERC-2010-StG_20091028
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-SG - ERC Starting Grant

Host institution

LUDWIG-MAXIMILIANS-UNIVERSITAET MUENCHEN
Address
Geschwister Scholl Platz 1
80539 Muenchen
Germany
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 1 487 827
Principal investigator
Dieter Braun (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Monika Bernhardt (Ms.)

Beneficiaries (1)

LUDWIG-MAXIMILIANS-UNIVERSITAET MUENCHEN
Germany
EU contribution
€ 1 487 827
Address
Geschwister Scholl Platz 1
80539 Muenchen
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Dieter Braun (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Monika Bernhardt (Ms.)