Earth, Life, and System: Evolution and Ecology on a Gaian Planet

By Bruce Clarke | Go to book overview

7
BRINGING CELL ACTION INTO EVOLUTION

JAMES A. SHAPIRO

Watching cells in action was always one of the joys of attending a lecture by Lynn Margulis. Often she showed videos of eukaryotic microbes and bacteria from an exotic environment, like the termite intestine, moving with extraordinary synchrony. Typically, the protist would be coated with thousands of cells from one or more bacterial species providing the motive force for the larger eukaryotic cell. Lynn saw these intimate associations as clues to the evolution of eukaryotic organelles.1 What I learned from Lynn’s fascination with symbiogenesis and the intimate associations between cells from different biological kingdoms was the largely unacknowledged power of both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells to control their activities and to coordinate with other cells. It is impossible to imagine how a symbiogenetic relationship could succeed without both metabolic and genomic integration. How did the merging cells synchronize their cell cycles so that one did not outgrow and lose or overgrow and destroy the other? We do not have the answer to such questions, but merely posing them opens the door to a realm of active cell control regimes that, I believe, will revolutionize twenty-first-century biology.


LIVING ORGANISMS IN ACTION

I wish to discuss how much of genome evolution results from active cell processes. The focus on genome evolution reflects my personal

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