Many people live under the false pretext that life on Earth comes down to the presence of the nucleus and its DNA. If we were to abide by this assumption, we would presume that an enucleate cell (lacking a nucleus) would not be able to function as it does normally. However, this is not the case. Experiments were performed whereby the nucleus of a cell was removed in order to see what would happen. The cell not only survived but also continued to carry out its normal living functions and processes. So the brain of the cell had to be present elsewhere.
Now consider humans. Without our brains we die. This leads us to question what it is exactly that the brain does to keep us alive. Well, it assesses our surroundings, taking in environmental information and transforming this data into signals that can be understood and acted upon in the body. It is also potent in its omission of some environmental signals as well as with the emission of messages sent by the body. Does the brain’s function sound familiar? Think back to GCSE biology, and the role of the cell membrane: “The cell membrane controls the movement of substances into and out of the cell”. So essentially, the human brain has the same role as the cell surface membrane.
This links back to one of my previous articles on the impact of genetics versus that of epigenetics. Naturally, the genetics of a cell comes from its DNA information in the nucleus. The influences of the environment, however, enter the cell via the cell surface membrane. Does that not validate the importance of epigenetics over that of genetics, now that we have established that the cellular brain is in fact the plasma membrane and not the nucleus?
Let’s now go back to the title – the molecule of life. What is it that triggers life processes to occur? And once the occurrence of a reaction has been triggered, what is it that enables the process to be carried out? Surely not the DNA as it does not leaves the nucleus, and we well know that reactions do not occur in the nucleus of the cell. Rather, they occur in the cytoplasm, where hundreds of proteins are present.