Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 523–537

A Fission-Fusion Origin for Life

  • V. Norris
  • D. J. Raine

DOI: 10.1023/A:1006568226145

Cite this article as:
Norris, V. & Raine, D.J. Orig Life Evol Biosph (1998) 28: 523. doi:10.1023/A:1006568226145


To develop a comprehensive ‘cells-first’ approach to the origin of life, we propose that protocells form spontaneously and that the fission and fusion of these protocells drives the dynamics of their evolution. The fitness criterion for this evolution is taken to be the the stability (conservation) of domains in the protocellular membrane as determined by non-covalent molecular associations between the amphiphiles of the membrane and a subset of the macromolecules in the protocell. In the presence of a source of free energy the macromolecular content of the protocell (co-)evolves as the result of (domain-dependent) membrane-catalysed polymerisation of the prebiotic constituents delivered to the protocell by fusion. The metabolism of the cell therefore (co-)evolves on a rugged fitness landscape. We indicate how domain evolution with the same fitness criterion can potentially give rise to coding. Membrane domains may therefore provide the link between protocells and the RNA/DNA-world.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. Norris
    • 1
  • D. J. Raine
    • 2
  1. 1.IFR ‘Systems Integres’ Laboratoire de Microbiologie Facultédes Sciences et Techniques de RouenMont Saint AiganFrance
  2. 2.Department of Physics and AstronomyUniversity of LeicesterU.K.