, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 395-400

A HYPOTHETICAL PATHWAY FROM THE RNA TO THE DNA WORLD

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Abstract

If the DNA world was preceded by a RNA world as widely suggested a rational pathway should be discernable to link the two. This report uses as a starting point a membrane-enclosed ribozyme capable of polymerising itself and its counterpart copy. As molecular complexity increased, it is suggested that a consortia of the initial ribozyme polymerase and chaperone molecules formed a complex specifically for RNA replication. A mutation in one of several copy-genomes coding for these replication machines then led in step-wise fashion to a proto-ribosome that increasingly inserted specific amino acids instead of nucleotides into a growing RNA chain, the driving force being selection for improved or new function. Eventually the nucleotides would be entirely displaced in this proto-ribosome, after which the ribose-phosphate linkage would be replaced by peptide linkage. The final steps would be the formation of DNA from the RNA genomic material viareverse transcriptase, coupled with the evolution of enzymes for DNA polymerisation and transcription. At this point the original RNA-replicator machinery would be redundant and eliminated, the RNA genomic material would become mRNA and the present-day function of the ribosome would be fixed. In the scenario described a mechanism for the selection for l-amino acids becomes evident