RNA lite? Chemicals known as TAPAS and CA (left) assemble together forming rosettes (middle) that
then stack into genelike chains (right). Credit: B.J. Cafferty et al., JACS (2013)

Self-Assembling Molecules Offer New Clues on Life’s Possible Origin

by Robert F. Service on 11 February 2013, 5:50 PM

A pair of RNA-like molecules can spontaneously assemble into gene-length chains, chemists in the United States and Spain report. Billions of years ago, related molecules may have created a rudimentary form of genetic information that eventually led to the evolution of RNA and life itself, the researchers say. Although it’s likely to be difficult, if not impossible, to prove whether similar proto-RNAs were present at the dawn of life, the researchers are working to see if the proto-RNAs can indeed faithfully encode information and evolve toward RNA.

Origin of life researchers have long thought that RNA, the molecular cousin of the DNA that encodes our genes, may have played a starring role in the initial evolution of life from a soup of organic molecules. RNA has a simpler structure than DNA and is a more adept chemical catalyst. So it would seem that RNA-based life might arise more readily than DNA-based life.

Read more: Self-Assembling Molecules Offer New Clues on Life’s Possible Origin – ScienceNOW.

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