New Study Brings Scientists Closer to the Origin of RNA

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One of the biggest questions in science is how life arose from the chemical soup that existed on early Earth. One theory is that RNA, a close relative of DNA, was the first genetic molecule to arise around 4 billion years ago, but in a primitive form that later evolved into the RNA and DNA molecules that we have in life today. New research shows one way this chain of events might have started.

Today,  is stored in DNA. RNA is created from DNA to put that information into action. RNA can direct the creation of proteins and perform other essential functions of  that DNA can't do. RNA's versatility is one reason that scientists think this polymer came first, with DNA evolving later as a better way to store genetic information for the long haul. But like DNA, RNA also could be a product of evolution, scientists theorize.

Chemists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have shown how molecules that may have been present on early Earth can self-assemble into structures that could represent a starting point of RNA. The spontaneous formation of RNA  is seen as a crucial step in the origin of life, but one that scientists have struggled with for decades.

"In our study, we demonstrate a reaction that we see as important for the formation of the earliest RNA-like molecules," said Nicholas Hud, professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech, where he's also the director of the Center for Chemical Evolution.

Written By: John Toon
continue to source article at phys.org

5 COMMENTS

  1. The materials for abiogenesis are starting to fall into place. The fascinating thing is that the principles of evolution will still play a part as we recede back through the living into the chemical….

  2. @OP – Today, genetic information is stored in DNA. RNA is created from DNA to put that information into action. RNA can direct the creation of proteins and perform other essential functions of life that DNA can’t do. RNA’s versatility is one reason that scientists think this polymer came first, with DNA evolving later as a better way to store genetic information for the long haul. But like DNA, RNA also could be a product of evolution, scientists theorize.

    It would also increase the chances of particular combinations arising, because the instability of RNA would produces more diversity for selection , than the more stable DNA. Admittedly it would be less capable of preserving new combinations but with high replication rates, higher levels of mutant mortality should not be a problem. In modern life forms high levels of mortality in offspring, come from competition and predation, which would initially be absent from abiogenesis.

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