Biophysics and Physicobiology
Online ISSN : 2189-4779
ISSN-L : 2189-4779
Hypothesis and Perspective
What parameters characterize “life”?
Shigeki MitakuRyusuke Sawada
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Supplementary material

2016 Volume 13 Pages 305-310


“Life” is a particular state of matter, and matter is composed of various molecules. The state corresponding to “life” is ultimately determined by the genome sequence, and this sequence determines the conditions necessary for survival of the organism. In order to elucidate one parameter characterizing the state of “life”, we analyzed the amino acid sequences encoded in the total genomes of 557 prokaryotes and 40 eukaryotes using a membrane protein prediction online tool called SOSUI. SOSUI uses only the physical parameters of the encoded amino acid sequences to make its predictions. The ratio of membrane proteins in a genome predicted by the SOSUI online tool was around 23% for all genomes, indicating that this parameter is controlled by some mechanism in cells. In order to identify the property of genome DNA sequences that is the possible cause of the constant ratio of membrane proteins, we analyzed the nucleotide compositions at codon positions and observed the existence of systematic biases distinct from those expected based on random distribution. We hypothesize that the constant ratio of membrane proteins is the result of random mutations restricted by the systematic biases inherent to nucleotide codon composition. A new approach to the biological sciences based on the holistic analysis of whole genomes is discussed in order to elucidate the principles underlying “life” at the biological system level.

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