Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the meaning of life

Paperback | November 15, 2006

byNick LaneAs told byNick Lane

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Mitochondria are tiny structures located inside our cells that carry out the essential task of producing energy for the cell. They are found in all complex living things, and in that sense, they are fundamental for driving complex life on the planet. But there is much more to them than that.Mitochondria have their own DNA, with their own small collection of genes, separate from those in the cell nucleus. It is thought that they were once bacteria living independent lives. Their enslavement within the larger cell was a turning point in the evolution of life, enabling the development ofcomplex organisms and, closely related, the origin of two sexes. Unlike the DNA in the nucleus, mitochondrial DNA is passed down exclusively (or almost exclusively) via the female line. That's why it has been used by some researchers to trace human ancestry daughter-to-mother, to 'MitochondrialEve'. Mitochondria give us important information about our evolutionary history. And that's not all. Mitochondrial genes mutate much faster than those in the nucleus because of the free radicals produced in their energy-generating role. This high mutation rate lies behind our ageing and certaincongenital diseases. The latest research suggests that mitochondria play a key role in degenerative diseases such as cancer, through their involvement in precipitating cell suicide. Mitochondria, then, are pivotal in power, sex, and suicide. In this fascinating and thought-provoking book, Nick Lane brings together the latest research findings in this exciting field to show how our growing understanding of mitochondria is shedding light on how complex life evolved, why sex arose(why don't we just bud?), and why we age and die. This understanding is of fundamental importance, both in understanding how we and all other complex life came to be, but also in order to be able to control our own illnesses, and delay our degeneration and death. 'An extraordinary account of groundbreaking modern science... The book abounds with interesting and important ideas.'Mark Ridley, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

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Mitochondria are tiny structures located inside our cells that carry out the essential task of producing energy for the cell. They are found in all complex living things, and in that sense, they are fundamental for driving complex life on the planet. But there is much more to them than that.Mitochondria have their own DNA, with their o...

Dr Nick Lane is Honorary Reader at University College London and formerly strategic director at Adelphi Medi Cine, a medical multimedia company based in London. His first book, iOxygen: the Molecule that made the World/i, was published to critical acclaim by Oxford University Press in 2002. He is co-editor of the academic text iLife i...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 7.72 × 5.08 × 0.79 inPublished:November 15, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199205647

ISBN - 13:9780199205646

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Table of Contents

IntroductionMitochondria: Clandestine Rulers of the WorldPart 1Hopeful Monster: The Origin of the Eukaryotic Cell1. The Deepest Evolutionary Chasm2. Quest for a Progenitor3. The Hydrogen HypothesisPart 2The Vital Force: Proton Power and the Origin of Life4. The Meaning of Respiration5. Proton Power6. The Origin of LifePart 3Insider Deal: The Foundations of Complexity7. Why Bacteria are Simple8. Why Mitochondria Make Complexity PossiblePart 4Power Laws: Size and the Ramp of Ascending Complexity9. The Power Laws of Biology10. The Warm-Blooded RevolutionPart 5Murder or Suicide: The Troubled Birth of the Individual11. Conflict in the Body12. Foundations of the IndividualPart 6Battle of the Sexes: Human Pre-History and the Nature of Gender13. The Asymmetry of Sex14. What Human Prehistory Says About the Sexes15. Why There Are Two SexesPart 7Clock of Life: Why Mitochondria Kill us in the End16. The Mitochondrial Theory of Ageing17. Demise of the Self-Correcting Machine18. A Cure for Old Age?EpilogueGlossaryFurther Reading

Editorial Reviews

`This is an especially interesting and worthwhile science book...Lane's next book is eagerly awaited.'London Book Review