Plenary Lecture

Plenary Lecture

The Origin of Life: Information Theory Perspective

Professor Krzysztof Cyran
Vice Head of Institute of Informatics
Silesian University of Technology
Gliwice, Poland

Abstract: The Life on Earth can be considered as one of the most complex systems that the science tries to understand. In particular the beginning of Life is still an unsolved problem having many implications to the theory of systems Current theories concerning the origin of life fall into two groups defined by Dyson in his famous book Origins of Life. The first group assumes that the transition form abiotic to biotic world occurred with the emergence of self-replicating RNA molecules and is referred to as RNA-world hypothesis. This most commonly accepted hypothesis requires the existence of the RNA-replicase ribozyme the search of which is described by McGinness and Joyce in 2003. The evolution of new genes after appearance of the RNA-replicase is challenged by instability of Eigen’s hypercycles composed of many genes supporting cyclically their replication. An alternative approach, proposed by Niesert as a compartment model with random segregation of genes, proved to be stable for very limited number of genes. Significant advance in the RNA-world theory has been done in 2007 by Ma et al. who performed intensive computer simulations demonstrating the emergence of the auto-catalytic and self-replicating activity of RNA oligonucleotides. Another relevant computer simulation-based study was reported in 2007 by Baaske et al. who observed the extreme accumulation of nucleotides in simulated hydrothermal pores. The second group of hypotheses derives life from the biochemistry of amino acids and their polymers, proteins. This group encompasses such theories like Dyson’s theory of double origin which requires at least 8-10 types of monomers for emergence of the first auto-catalysing protocells and therefore excludes from this role nucleotides, or theories described in 2007 by Rode et al. assuming that salt-induced peptide formation (SIPF) reaction could have been the crucial step from chemistry towards biology. In the lecture these theories will be reviewed as well as models of early stages of RNA-world will be presented. The latter methodology will be based on intensive computer simulations of the package model with random segregation of genetic material. The improvement proposed here is modeling the environmental changes of the evolving population by stochastic fluctuation of the number of replicating molecules (NORM) in the compartment. This stochasticity can be the sole source of variation or it can be added to the cell-to-cell stochasticity originally proposed by Niesert. Further enhancement relying on BP extinction conditions applied to simulated population of RNA protocells will also be proposed. The aim is to model the evolution of the early RNA-world before the appearance of chromosomal architecture of genomes. Finally, the comparison of the single-strand and the compartment models will be carried out from the information processing perspective using the Shannon information theory. The potential of models for preserving the genetic information will be studied for the compartment and the single strand models with the complexity threshold estimated in Demetrius-Kimmel BP model supplemented with possibility of phosphodiester bond break. The advantage of this latter model lies in its potential for obtaining reliable estimates of its parameters. Since the probability of the break of a phosphodiester bond between two nucleotides can be experimentally received for feasible conditions of the early Earth, the model can be more accurate than models based on information balance between mutation and natural selection. Advantageous in the proposed comparison is also the use of information amount as a measure of evolutionary capacity of hypothetical models of the RNA-world. In this context it should be noticed that the problem of error catastrophe is equally important for both groups of theories concerning the origin of life, although for each of them the acceptable value of complexity threshold is different Therefore, the reliable estimate of this threshold based on methodology proposed could favor one or the other group, or at least predict the limits for the length of newly arisen genomes and in that matter contribute to revealing the mystery of Life

Brief Biography of the Speaker:
Krzysztof A. Cyran was born in Cracow, Poland, in 1968. He received MSc degree in computer science (1992) and PhD degree (with honours) in technical sciences with specialty in computer science (2000) from the Silesian University of Technology SUT, Gliwice, Poland. His PhD dissertation addresses the problem of image recognition with the use of computer generated holograms applied as ring-wedge detectors.
He has been an author and co-author of more than 80 technical papers in journals (several of them indexed by Thomson Scientific) and conference proceedings. These include scientific articles like: K. A. Cyran and A. Mrozek, “Rough sets in hybrid methods for pattern recognition,” Int. J. Intel. Syst., vol. 16, 2001, pp. 149-168, and K. A. Cyran and M. Kimmel, “Interactions of Neanderthals and modern humans: what can be inferred from mitochondrial DNA?” Math. Biosci. Eng., vol. 2, 2005, pp. 487-498, as well as a monograph: U. Stanczyk, K. Cyran, and B. Pochopien, Theory of Logic Circuits, vol 1 and 2, Gliwice: Publishers of the Silesian University of Technology, 2007. Dr. Cyran (in 2003-2004) was a Visiting Scholar in Department of Statistics at Rice University in Houston, US. He is currently the Assistant Professor and the Vice Head of the Institute of Informatics at Silesian University of Technology, Gliwice, Poland. Since 2009 He is also a Coordinator of postgraduate studies in the Civil Aviation Personnel Education Center of Central and Eastern Europe. His current research interests are in image recognition and processing, artificial intelligence, digital circuits, decision support systems, rough sets, aviation and aeronautics, computational population genetics and bioinformatics, including Human evolution and Origin of Life.
Dr. Cyran has been involved in numerous statutory projects led at the Institute of Informatics and some scientific grants awarded by the State Committee for Scientific Research. He also has received several awards of the Rector of the Silesian University of Technology for his scientific achievements. In 2004-2005 he was a member of International Society for Computational Biology. Currently he is a member of the Editorial Board of Journal of Biological Systems (indexed by ISI) and a member of Scientific Committee of the Seventh International Conference on Rough Sets and Current Trends in Computing (proceedings published by Springer). In past he was a member of the Scientific Program Committees of WSEAS international conferences in Malta (ECC’08), Rodos (AIC’08, ISCGAV’08, ISTASC’08) and multiconference in Crete (CSCC’08) as well as member of the Scientific Committee and Vice-Chair of the Organizing Committee of the International Conference on Man-Machine Interactions with proceedings published by Springer. He is also a reviewer for Studia Informatica and such journals indexed by Thompson Scientific as: Optoelectronic Review, Mathematical Biosciences and Engineering, and Journal of Biological Systems.

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