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Evolutionary Origins of Compartmentalized Cells

Venue: National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore

Dates: 19 February - 02 March, 2012.

This 2-week program deals with the ancient origins of the eukaryotic compartmentalized cell plan. Surprisingly little is known about this key phase of the evolution of life on earth: eukaryotes began to diverge from bacteria during the global oxygenation event 2.5 billion years ago, but all living eukaryotes share a more recent common ancestor dating from about 1 billion years ago. Data from modern eukaryotic genomes, as well as exciting recent studies of rudimentary compartments in bacterial cells, might allow us to reconstruct the intervening 1.5 billion year period during which quintessential eukaryotic features emerged: the nucleus, compartmentalized organelles, the cytoskeletal machinery, and vesicle traffic.

The program brings together two ingredients: (1) The cell biology and biophysics of intracellular compartments and vesicle traffic. (2) The evolution of key molecular players involved in generating and maintaining intracellular compartments. We will have pedagogical tutorials (on cell biology and phylogenetic techniques) as well as a three-day conference in which experts from around the world will discuss our current understanding of eukaryote origins. We invite participation from biophysicists interested in cell biological mechanisms; cell and evolutionary biologists interested in eukaryote origins; and bioinformaticians or computational biologists interested in modern phylogenetic techniques. We especially welcome graduate students and post-doctoral researchers who would like to learn about the open questions and possible research directions in this rapidly accelerating field.

Frances Brodsky, Satyajit Mayor and Mukund Thattai
Sunday 19 Feb, 2012 - Friday 02 Mar, 2012
The emergence of the eukaryote cell plan

List of speakers
Tentative program

Our program is a follow-up to an exciting meeting held at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in the spring of 2010. Materials from the KITP Evocell10 program, including recorded talks, can be found here.

The figure above sketches our current understanding of the emergence of compartmentalized eukaryotes, from prokaryote-like ancestors, approximately 2.5 billion years ago. The series of steps leading to sophisticated compartmentalization has left no trace of 'intermediate forms', so that all extant eukaryotes have the 'standard' cell plan, and share a last eukaryote common ancestor (LECA) which dates approximately 1.8 billion years ago. To understand the evolution of these cells, we must understand what happened along the billion-year stem.

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