Just like old times: Generating RNA molecules in water

November 20, 2009

A key question in the origin of biological molecules like RNA and DNA is how they first came together billions of years ago from simple precursors. Now, in a study appearing in this week's Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers in Italy have reconstructed one of the earliest evolutionary steps yet: generating long chains of RNA from individual subunits using nothing but warm water.

Many researchers believe that was one of the first biological molecules present, before and proteins; however, there has been little success in recreating the formation on RNA from simple "prebiotic" molecules that likely were present on primordial earth billions of years ago.

Now, Ernesto Di Mauro and colleagues found that ancient molecules called cyclic nucleotides can merge together in water and form polymers over 100 nucleotides long in water ranging from 40-90 °C -similar to water temperatures on ancient Earth.

Cyclic nucleotides like cyclic-AMP are very similar to the nucleotides that make up individual pieces of DNA or RNA (A, T, G and C), except that they form an extra and assume a ring-shaped structure. That extra bond makes cyclic nucleotides more reactive, though, and thus they were able to join together into long chains at a decent rate (about 200 hours to reach 100 nucleotides long).

This finding is exciting as cyclic themselves can be easily formed from simple chemicals like formamide, thus making them plausible prebiotic compounds present during primordial times. Thus, this study may be revealing how the first bits of genetic information were created.

More information: Generation of Long RNA Chains in Water" by Giovanna Costanzo, Samanta Pino, Fabiana Ciciriello and Ernesto Di Mauro. Article link: www.jbc.org/content/early/2009/10/02/jbc.M109.041905

Source: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Explore further: Closing a loophole in the RNA World Hypothesis

Related Stories

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 ...

Researchers Studying Little-Known Genetic Sequences

November 13, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- University of Arizona researchers are among a group of scientists who have discovered a source of previously scarce small RNA molecules. Their finding, which was recently published in the Proceedings of the ...

Recommended for you

Findings illuminate animal evolution in protein function

July 27, 2015

Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond researchers recently teamed up to explore the inner workings of cells and shed light on the 400–600 million years of evolution between humans and early animals ...

Bleach a possible key to life on earth

July 23, 2015

Hydrogen peroxide - commonly used as hair bleach - may have provided the energy source for the development of life on Earth, two applied mathematicians have found.

Acetic acid as a proton shuttle in gold chemistry

July 24, 2015

A recently published study gives a vivid example of unusual chemical reactivity associated with organogold complexes. Using modern physical methods and computational studies, the authors propose a reaction mechanism in which ...

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.