A Public Symposium: At Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore Feb 1 – 3, 2016 organized by NTU Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) followed by a small circle meeting, Feb 3-6.

The Format: The first part Feb 1-3 open to the general scientific community and the public with special invitations to Singapore Junior College students interested in biological sciences. The second part is by invitation only.

Organized together with The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (KVA) and with support from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, Sweden.

Background: The Singapore meeting is an outgrowth of an earlier one, arranged in Stockholm in June 2014 to celebrate three centuries of science supported by the Royal Science Academy, Stockholm. Professor Charles Kurland is the meeting Chair and together with his colleagues will introduce the Singapore community of molecular cell biologists the newly emergent molecular phylogenomic methods as well as their applications to studies of evolution at the hierarchical levels of cells and protein molecules. The meeting features a number of KVA members and one or more Nobel laureates.

The Watson-Crick DNA model and the universal Genetic Code as well as the mechanisms underlying its expression in the amino acid sequences of proteins are the bedrock of molecular evolution. They have also been common knowledge for roughly fifty years.

In contrast, it is less known that after thousands of genomes have been sequenced, tens of thousands of protein structures have been determined at atomic resolution and informatic models have been developed to translate genome sequences into 3D protein domain structures, molecular evolution now may be viewed from more refined perspectives. In particular, protein domain evolution is seen as the selection of sequences that support efficient dynamic folding mechanisms monitored by ubiquitous epistatic editing enzymes. And, at the other extreme of complexity, genome scale repertoires of protein domains have been recruited to reconstruct deep phylogeny of Archaea, Bacteria and Eukaryotes. The consequence of this avalanche of genome scale information is that we now can reconstruct rooted species trees that describe the evolution of organisms rather than that of genes. Such genome trees project the evolution of modern organisms as a tree for which the Akaryotes (Archaea plus Bacteria) and Eukaryotes evolve in two independent lineages from a common ancestor at the root of the modern tree of life. Bottom line, the modern tree of life is not the Woese rRNA tree.

Traditionally, it was assumed that the ancestor of the modern tree of life is a minimalist first cell that evolved by accumulating increasingly numerous and diverse coding sequences to reach the complexities of modern genomes. In fact, the root of the modern tree of life seems to be quite complex. For this reason, molecular evolutionists are enlisting the help of paleontologists to try to discover what sort of organism the universal common ancestor of modern life really was. The only sure thing now is that the common ancestor was not an archaeon or a bacterium or a eukaryote, but that it did encode many of the protein domains of all three super-kingdoms.

C. G. Kurland (SE) (Chair) and Dan Andersson (SE), Julian Gough (UK), Ajith Harish (SE), Michael Levitt (USA), Mikael Oliveberg (SE), Lars Nordenskiöld (SG), as well as Antonis Rokas (USA) are facilitating this meeting.

For those who want to know the latest about the evolution of cells, genomes and proteins, the public meeting between February 1 to February 3 at NTU provides an excellent opportunity to listen to some eminent experts in the field.

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