CSH Talk by Veronica Mierzejewski: “Scaling in biochemistry and how novel functions arise…”

Oct 25, 2022 | 15:0016:00

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Veronica Mierzejewski from Arizona State University will give a live talk on Tuesday, October 25 at 3 pm in the Salon.


If you would like to attend, please email to office@csh.ac.at.


Titel: “Scaling patterns in enzyme diversity across the tree of life: how do novel biochemical functions arise?”



While biology on Earth shares universal biochemical component parts, it is unclear what unites all life in the universe. Lacking this knowledge, we are unable to formulate a theory of life based on first principles. A promising area of research to discover such principles is scaling theory, which describes how a variable predictably changes as a system’s size increases. Scaling patterns are known to exist in biological systems, such as metabolic rates scaling with organism size as a result of universal cardiovascular branching patterns and energy transport.

However, fewer studies explore scaling in biochemistry, or focus on how scaling theory can help us predict features of life elsewhere. To fill this gap, we focus on the scaling of diversity in biochemical function across the three domains of life, using enzymes as a proxy (Fig. 1). Our team in Gagler et al. 2022 showed that within bacteria, archaea, and eukarya, scaling patterns exist in the broadest functional classes of enzymes: the oxidoreductases, transferases, hydrolases, lyases, isomerases, and ligases.

Here, we ask whether scaling varies across branches in the tree of life to see if scaling coefficients depend on evolutionary history. Analysis of scaling across phyla (a taxonomic classification below the domain level) shows that variation in scaling is not correlated with phylogenetic distance.  This suggests that scaling does not vary due to evolutionary divergences alone.

In this talk, I will present ideas on what might be dictating this fine-tuning in scaling, as well as how the diversification of biochemical function may relate to learning dynamics. Our results will help us understand macroscale evolutionary trajectories of biochemistries across time, as well as how these scaling laws might be applicable to constraining models of the earliest life or in designing synthetic life.


Veronica Mierzejewski is a PhD student from The School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, who studies universal biochemistry, scaling, and metabolism.


Oct 25, 2022


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