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Welcome to the Holliger Lab

The work of our group is aimed at a better understanding of the fundamental principles and chemical logic that shape genetic systems and enable heredity and evolution, two of the defining hallmarks of life.

Specifically, we ask how the capacity to store and propagate information, how life’s first genetic system arose and why information storage and propagation in biological systems is based on just two types of nucleic acids, DNA and RNA. Is the chemistry of life’s genetic system based on chance or necessity? Does it reflect a "frozen accident", imposed at the origin of life, or are DNA and RNA functionally superior to simple alternatives.

We are working on 1) the synthesis, replication and evolution of entirely synthetic genetic polymers (XNAs) capable of information storage, propagation and evolution and 2) the reconstruction of a key component of the RNA world, an RNA molecule capable of self-replication and mutation and hence, evolution towards ever more efficient self-replication and the potential role of water ice in that process.

Recent Publications

In-ice evolution of ribozyme activity.
AttwaterJ, Wochner A, Holliger P.
Nature Chemistry. 2013 , 5, 1011-8 doi: 10.1038/NCHEM.1781

Structures of an apo and a binary complex of an evolved archeal B family DNA polymerase capable of synthesising highly cy-dye labelled DNA.
Wynne SA, Pinheiro VB, Holliger P, Leslie AG.
PLoS One. 2013 ;8:e70892. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070892

Synthetic polymers and their potential as genetic materials.
Pinheiro VB, Loakes D, Holliger P.
Bioessays. 2013;35:113-22. doi: 10.1002/bies.201200135

Origins of life: The cooperative gene.
Attwater J, Holliger P.
Nature. 2012 ;491:48-9. doi: 10.1038/nature11635

Reversible Fluorescence Photoswitching in DNA.
Smith DA, Holliger P, Flors C. J.
Phys. Chem. B, 2012, 116 , 10290–10293 DOI: 10.1021/jp3056834