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Institute of Molecular Evolution

Welcome to the Institute of Molecular Evolution at Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf. Our main scientific interests are endosymbiosis, early evolution, the origin of life, cell evolution, genome evolution and compartmentalized energy metabolism with emphasis on chloroplasts, mitochondria, and hydrogenosomes.


The metabolic network of the last bacterial common ancestor

Communications Biology 4:413 (2021)

doi: 10.1038/s42003-021-01918-4


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24.03.2021 | In memoriam Tom Cavalier-Smith

Tom was a savant. The human brain typically filters information on comparative morphology, Tom's did not. He rearranged his trees of cells, in his head, at will, for two reasons. First because he was able to do so, something no one else could. Second because there was always the problem that the characters might all be equally important. Weighting one character over the other changed the tree, often at its base, and he was able to then draw the resulting tree and its alternatives in a few minutes, from full throttle short and long term memory at once, sometimes reinterpreting characters in full stride. Those are intellectual feats unimaginable for the rest of us. He diligently put his knowledge in the written record, a great service to us all, for which science will be eternally grateful. Today we talk about Darwin or Haeckel. No one ever heard Tom say I can't remember. The rest of us put together, on the other hand, cannot forget. He was the closest thing to a super-hero that biology has to offer. In 200 years, the only contemporary blologist that science will discuss is Tom Cavalier-Smith. It was an honor to have interacted with him on too few occasions and to have been a biologist during his time. 

Gene duplications trace mitochondria to the onset of eukaryote complexity

Genome Biology and Evolution (2021)

doi: 10.1093/gbe/evab055

The autotrophic core: An ancient network of 404 reactions converts H2, CO2, and NH3 into amino acids, bases, and cofactors

Microorganisms 9:458 (2021)

doi: 10.3390/microorganisms9020458

The origin of symbiogenesis: An annotated English translation of Mereschkowky's 1910 paper on the theory of two plasma lineages

Biosystems 199:104281 (2021)

doi: 10.1016/j.biosystems.2020.104281

09.12.2020 Press | Nature

Martina Preiner's research was quoted in Nature:

The water paradox and the origins of life

Mitochondria and Anaerobic Energy Metabolism in Eukaryotes

De Gruyter (2021)

doi: 10.1515/9783110612417



30.11.2020 We moved!

You can now find us in 

Building 26.24

Floor 03

Anomalous phylogenetic behavior of ribosomal proteins in metagenome assembled asgard archaea

Genome Biol Evol (2020)

doi: 10.1093/gbe/evaa238

A spectrum of verticality across genes

PLoS Genet 16:e1009200 (2020)

doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1009200

17.09.2020 Graduation | Maria Handrich

Maria Handrich successfully finished her doctorate with the thesis entitled

"Vergleichende Analyse von Lichtschutzmechanismen in 6 verschiedenen Repräsentanten der Archaeplastida".

Phylogenetic analyses with systematic taxon sampling show that mitochondria branch within Alphaproteobacteria

Nat Ecol Evol (2020)

doi: 10.1038/s41559-020-1239-x

Behind the paper: A call for super caution in phylogenetic studies on the origin of mitochondria

Congratulations to Shijulal Nelson-Sathi, a former PhD Student and Postdoc from our institute, who has been selected as Scientist C (equivalent to Assistant Professor) at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India.  

Older than genes: The acetyl CoA pathway and origins

Front Microbiol 11:817 (2020)

doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.00817

28.05.2020 Graduation | Madeline Weiß

Madeline Weiß successfully finished her doctorate with the thesis entitled

"Phylogenetische Analyse prokaryotischer Genome zur Rekonstruktion des letzten gemeinsamen Vorfahrens der Prokaryoten".

Autocatalytic chemical networks at the origin of metabolism

Proc R Soc B 287:20192377 (2020)

doi: 10.1098/rspb.2019.2377

Bacterial genes outnumber archaeal genes in eukaryotic genomes

Genome Biol Evol (2020)

doi: 10.1093/gbe/evaa047

02.03.2020 Press | Science

Science published an article about William Martin's latest paper in Nature Ecology and Evolution:

Was this life’s first meal?

A hydrogen-dependent geochemical analogue of primordial carbon and energy metabolism

Nat Ecol Evol (2020)

doi: 10.1038/s41559-020-1125-6

Physiological limits to life in anoxic subseafloor sediment

FEMS Microbiol Rev (2020)

doi: 10.1093/femsre/fuaa004

28.01.2020 Graduation | Martina Preiner

Martina Preiner successfully finished her doctorate with the thesis entitled

"The abiotic pattern of biotic CO2 fixation in early metabolism".

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