Living organisms are intricate assemblies of diverse nanostructures and nanomachines, achieving their complexity and functionality through interactions at the nanoscale. Exploring the principles underlying the construction of complex organisms and investigating their potential artificial demonstration is important for understanding the origin of life. In this presentation, I will discuss our nanoscientific exploration of life’s origins, bridging the transition from geochemistry to biochemistry.
To begin, I will describe the intriguing nanophenomena discovered in hydrothermal vents (HVs). Through detailed material investigations of alkaline HVs found in the deep-sea, we’ve unveiled aligned nanopores within precipitates formed via geological processes. These nanopores enable selective ion transport similar to cellular functions. This discovery hints at the emergence of cellular functions through the cumulative effects of physical and chemical processes, offering insights into the development of more complex systems from simple inorganic materials and their environments.
Next, I will discuss the characteristics of confined nanowater that emerge within the nanopores of HVs. Various biomolecular structures constructed at the nanoscale are surrounded by a nanoconfined water environment, and these properties govern biological reactions. The confined water created through HV nanopores exhibits ice-like ordering and various physicochemical characteristics distinct from bulk water, and I will explain the implications of these unique characteristics on life’s fundamental processes.
Lastly, I will introduce our bottom-up laboratory approach to mimic the formation of hydrothermal vents and create functional components resembling cells based on the elucidated physicochemical principles. Our nanoscientific exploration into the origin of life serves as a crucial link between geochemistry and biochemistry, potentially aiding in the search for life or its origins on other planets.
Speaker: Dr. Hye-Eun Lee
Hye-Eun Lee is a Specially Appointed Assistant Professor at the Earth-Life Science Institute. She earned her Ph.D. in Material Science and Engineering from Seoul National University, focusing on the interaction between organic and inorganic materials, particularly the transition from achiral to chiral nanostructures. Following her doctoral studies, she conducted postdoctoral research in Prof. Ryuhei Nakamura’s group at RIKEN, where her work centered on investigating alkaline hydrothermal vents in the deep sea. Her research interests encompass the role of inorganic materials and hydrothermal vent systems in the origins of primitive life and the chemical evolution from inorganic to organic matter through laboratory experiments.
Host: Ryuhei Nakamura
Date: Wed. 4 Oct. 16:00-17:00 JST
Venue: Mishima Hall