Translation machinery is a central paradigm that has dominated our understanding of the last ~4 billion years of biological history. We are interested in understanding howdid the first translation machinery look like. How unique was it? Was this machinery one among many? Were there other alternatives, why and why not? Was the original translation proto-enzyme tightly constrained and/or highly derived? Can we reconstruct an artificial translation system different than what we already know?


We are interested in harnessing the potential of exciting and ancestral DNA sequence space and resurrect the conditions. We take a similar approach to origins of life problem to Tesla’s approach to generate electricity. Try everything, and see what works without reference to environmental plausibility, and then back engineer the conditions. Can we do this with today’s biology/ biochemistry? Our goal is to modify and manipulate the modern translation machinery with reconstructed ancestral homologs and to recapitulate steps in the evolution of translation.

Key Papers

The Onset of Evolutionary Stalling and The Limit on the Power of Natural Selection to Improve a Cellular Module. Read Paper >>>


Functional Constraints on Replacing an Essential Gene with Its Ancient and Modern Homologs. Read Paper >>>

Experimental Evolution of Escherichia coli Harboring an Ancient Translation Protein. Read Paper >>>

Towards the Recapitulation of Ancient History in the Laboratory:

Combining Synthetic Biology with Experimental Evolution. Read Paper >>>

Key Collaborators


Lionel Guy (Uppsala University)

Suparna Sanyal (Uppsala University)

Sergey Kryazhimskiy (UCSD) 

Santa Fe Institute