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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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V. Life's Corporeal Evolution Develops, Encodes and Organizes Itself: An Earthtwinian Genesis Synthesis

3. Cellular Self-Organization and Holobiont Symbiogenesis

Margulis, Lynn. Symbiosis in Cell Evolution. San Francisco: Freeman, 1992. The main reference for how the symbiotic evolution and assembly of eukaryotic cells became known by its University of Massachusetts at Amherst microbiologist who discovered it.

Margulis, Lynn and Rene Fester, eds. Symbiosis as a Source of Innovation in Evolution. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991. A wide range of papers on the important role of symbiotic combinations in speciation and morphogenesis

Margulis, Lynn, et al, eds. Chimeras and Consciousness: Evolution of the Sensory Self. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011. As usual Lynn, Dorion Sagan, and colleagues achieve a unique, lively collection with five ascendant sections: Selves, Groups, Earth, Chimeras, and Consciousness. Again its core theme, in contrast to Darwinian denials, recognizes and expresses life’s inherent, persistent tendency toward manifest personal and communal individuality. Authoritative authors such as Eshel Ben Jacob, Antonio Lazcano, Margaret McFall-Nagi, Gerhard Roth, and Frank Ryan enlighten and enliven.

Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) was a University of Massachusetts at Amherst microbiologist and is the main discoverer that nucleated cells formed via symbiotic meldings of various specialized bacteria. Vladimir Vernadsky, the Russian geobiochemist, provides guiding philosophy of biosphere and noosphere, along with James Lovelock and the Gaia vision. Living matter in its cellular and organisms forms is then seen to consistently evolve and advance by way of cooperative symbiogenesis, another term for which is the formation of animal “chimeras.”

By these lights, if they are allowed, can be sighted an increasing propensity for and pathway toward sentient, intelligent, and social entities, lately human beings within a symbiotic lifesphere. The result would please Pierre Teilhard, who worked with Vernadsky in Paris in the 1920s, for the book’s purpose is to evoke a rising consciousness in tandem with a nested, organic complexity. We quote the publisher’s succinct summary.

Chimeras and Consciousness begins the inquiry into the evolution of the collective sensitivities of life. Scientist-scholars from a range of fields--including biochemistry, cell biology, history of science, family therapy, genetics, microbial ecology, and primatology--trace the emergence and evolution of consciousness. Complex behaviors and the social imperatives of bacteria and other life forms during 3,000 million years of Earth history gave rise to mammalian cognition. Awareness and sensation led to astounding activities; millions of species incessantly interacted to form our planet’s complex conscious system. Our planetmates, all of them conscious to some degree, were joined only recently by us, the aggressive modern humans.

From social bacteria to urban citizens, all living beings participate in community life. Nested inside families within communities inside ecosystems, each metabolizes, takes in matter, expends energy, and excretes. Each of the members of our own and other species, in groups with incessantly shifting alliances, receives and processes information. Mergers of radically different life forms with myriad purposes--the "chimeras" of the title--underlie dramatic metamorphosis and other positive evolutionary change.] Since early bacteria avoided, produced, and eventually used oxygen, Earth’s sensory systems have expanded and complexified. The provocative essays in this book, going far beyond science but undergirded by the finest science, serve to put sensitive, sensible life in its cosmic context.

Martin, William and Michael Russell. On the Origins of Cells: A Hypothesis for the Evolutionary Transitions from Abiotic Geochemistry to Chemoautotrophic Prokaryotes, and from Prokaryotes to Nucleated Cells. Philosophical Transcations of the Royal Society of London B. 358/77, 2003. An extensive, illustrated technical paper proposes that membrane-bounded, free-living cells arose out of an original, not free-living “universal ancestor.”

From our viewpoint, physical compartmentation from the environment and self-organization of self-contained redox reactions are the most conserved attributes of living things, hence inorganic matter with such attributes would be life’s most likely forebear. (77)

Mason, Alexander, et al. Mimicking Cellular Compartmentalization in a Hierarchical Protocell through Spontaneous Spatial Organization. ACS Central Science. Online July 3, 2019. We include this entry about synthetic cells in this section because it shows how these title findings of life’s scalar self-organization are well evident across cellular forms. Eight Eindhoven University of Technology chemists apply this natural archetype of bounded whole units composed of symbiotic members to intentionally scope out how new beneficial and benign procreations could be conceived to well serve person and planet.

A systemic feature of eukaryotic cells is the spatial organization of functional components through compartmentalization. Developing protocells with compartmentalized synthetic organelles is a critical step toward one of the core characteristics of cellular life. Here we demonstrate the bottom-up, multistep, noncovalent, assembly of rudimentary subcompartmentalized protocells through the spontaneous encapsulation of semipermeable, polymersome proto-organelles inside cell-sized coacervates. The coacervate microdroplets are membranized using tailor-made terpolymers, to complete the hierarchical self-assembly of protocells, a system that mimics both the condensed cytosol and the structure of a cell membrane. In this way, the spatial organization of enzymes can be finely tuned, leading to an enhancement of functionality. (Abstract)

McFall-Ngai, Margaret. Symbiosis takes a front and center role in biology. PLoS Biology. April, 2024. A California Institute of Technology systems microbiologist (search) provides an upbeat overview survey of this long overdue open frontier whence we can learn about these myriad occasions across life’s vivacious relational multiplexity.

These are early days and we have barely scratched the surface of the vast diversity of symbiotic systems that drive the biosphere. The ecological niches filled by invertebrates and plants are so varied that many strategies for living in the microbial world remain to be discovered. To address these different systems with the highest possible rigor, strong collaborations between animal and plant biologists and the community of microbiologists will be essential, although this imperative will not be easy, as the fields have been in silos since the 19th century. Despite these cultural challenges, it is a new day for biology, with a vast frontier to explore. (3)

Meinesz, Alexandre. How Life Began: Evolution’s Three Geneses. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2008. A University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis biologist goes on to elucidates the subsequent triune developments of prokaryotic bacteria, plant and animal cells, and the rise of multicellular forms. A view from sunny France that carefully explains and weaves contingency and convergence, self-organization and selection, with nods to theological imports.

Merle, Melody, et al. Precise and Scalable Self-Organization in Mammalian Pseudo-Embryos. arXiv:2303.17522. Pasteur Institute, Paris cell biologists report still another advanced way to quantify just how these natural intrinsic propensities are in vivifying effect for every aspect of a cellular and organismic evolutionary genesis.

During multi-cellular development, reproducible gene expression patterns determine cellular fates which are crucial when the body plan and the asymmetric axes emerge at gastrulation. In some species, such as flies and worms, these early processes achieve micro-spatial precision. However, we know little about such accuracy in mammalian development. Using an in vitro model for gastruloids, we find that gene expressions neatly reproduce protein concentration variabilities. Our results reveal developmental precision, reproducibility, and size scaling for mammalian systems, which notably arise spontaneously in self-organizing cell aggregates as fundamental features of multicellularity. (Excerpt)

Michod, Richard and Aurora Nedelcu. Cooperation and Conflict During the Unicellular-Multicellular and Prokaryotic-Eukaryotic Transitions. Moya, Andres and Enrique Font, eds. Evolution: From Molecules to Ecosystems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. In these basic stages, a general progression is discerned from a competitive interaction of components onto increasing cooperative mediation, which leads to the emergence of a whole entity. In so doing, a new evolutionary level of individuality is achieved.

Misteli, Tom. Concepts in Nuclear Architecture. BioEssays. 27/5, 2005. The active cell nucleus is a non-random array of genomic functions as a result of its constant self-organization.

Central to self-organizing systems is the high dynamic content and a relative promiscuity of interactions among components. The recent observations of the dynamics of numerous nuclear proteins in living cells clearly supports both of these premises. (483) The auto-reinforcing behavior of self-organizing systems may contribute greatly to the overall stability of nuclear structure and the functional status of the genome but, at the same time, the transient nature of virtually all protein-protein and protein-chromatin interactions may also poise the system for rapid change in response to external stimuli. Thus, the dynamic, self-organized, nature of nuclear organization is a fundamental, functionally essential property of the cell. (483)

Misteli, Tom. The Concept of Self-organization in Cellular Architecture. Journal of Cell Biology. 155/2, 2001. The paradigm shift to perceive the living cell as a dynamic, non-equilibrium concatenation of interacting components both in the cytoskeleton and other compartments and in the nucleus itself.

I suggest that self-organization is a more general mechanism for the formation, maintenance, and function of cellular organization that currently anticipated. (181)

Misteli, Tom. The Inner Life of the Genome. Scientific American. February, 2011. A popular article by the National Cancer Institute geneticist which can serve as a capsule of the frontiers of biology. New understandings of the cell nucleus, from his own group and other researchers, identify components, as per the quote, that seem to know what they are doing. While “machinery” and “factory” metaphors are used, it is said that such activities are not mechanically instructed but seem to organize themselves by the active, mutual interests of their constituents. Closer to truth, it increasingly appears that something is going on by itself, if the possibility could even be admitted, and accommodated by a conducive, evidential cosmos that is essentially organic and developmental in kind.

Aided by new 3-D imaging technology that allows us to peer deeper than ever into the living cell, we have discovered a startlingly vibrant ecosystem. In the nucleus, chromosomes physically interact with neighboring chromosomes, genes on those chromosomes migrate to different nuclear locations depending on what they need to accomplish, and molecules that regulate gene activity congregate in bustling hubs. (68) Instead I have proposed that nuclear positioning is self-organizing, somewhat like middle school students forming cliques because they are drawn together by mutual interests, not because they were instructed to associate by parents or teachers. In this view, the location of genes and chromosomes inside the nucleus springs from their activity and is not determined by some external organizing machinery. (72)

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