Closing a loophole in the RNA World Hypothesis

January 15, 2007

New scientific research may close a major loophole in the RNA world hypothesis, the idea that ribonucleic acid -- not the fabled DNA that makes up genes in people and other animals -- was the key to life's emergence on Earth 4.6 billion years ago.

That hypothesis states that RNA catalyzed all the biochemical reactions necessary to produce living organisms. Only later were those self-replicating RNA units joined by organisms based on DNA, which evolved into more advanced forms of life.

But how did ribonucleic acid appear? Scientists have shown that other organic compounds can form spontaneously under conditions believed to exist on the primordial Earth.

The University of Manchester's John D. Sutherland and colleagues point out, however, that no plausible prebiotic synthesis of ribonucleotides, the components of RNA, has been reported. His group offers the large part of such a potential synthesis in an article scheduled for the Jan. 17 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.

The researchers describe a process in which each of the two components for a ribonucleotide form in different locations on the primordial Earth. They combine when one evaporates and is delivered to the location of the second component in rainfall.

Source: American Chemical Society

Explore further: New evidence emerges on the origins of life

Related Stories

New evidence emerges on the origins of life

June 1, 2015

In the beginning, there were simple chemicals. And they produced amino acids that eventually became the proteins necessary to create single cells. And the single cells became plants and animals. Recent research is revealing ...

The vital question: Why is life the way it is?

April 1, 2015

The Vital Question: Why is life the way it is? is a new book by Nick Lane that is due out on April 23rd. His question is not one for a static answer but rather one for a series of ever sharper explanations—explanations ...

Micropore labyrinths as crucibles of life

January 27, 2015

Water-filled micropores in hot rock may have acted as the nurseries in which life on Earth began. An LMU team has now shown that temperature gradients in pore systems promote the cyclical replication and emergence of nucleic ...

Recommended for you

For 2-D boron, it's all about that base

September 2, 2015

Rice University scientists have theoretically determined that the properties of atom-thick sheets of boron depend on where those atoms land.

At Saturn, one of these rings is not like the others

September 2, 2015

When the sun set on Saturn's rings in August 2009, scientists on NASA's Cassini mission were watching closely. It was the equinox—one of two times in the Saturnian year when the sun illuminates the planet's enormous ring ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.