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.
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