The Early Phases of Genetic Code Origin: Conjectures on the Evolution of Coded Catalysis

  • Massimo Di GiulioEmail author


A review of the most significant contributions on the early phases of genetic code origin is presented. After stressing the importance of the key intermediary role played in protein synthesis, by peptidyl-tRNA, which is attributed with a primary function in ancestral catalysis, the general lines leading to the codification of the first amino acids in the genetic code are discussed. This is achieved by means of a model of protoribosome evolution which sees protoribosome as the central organiser of ancestral biosynthesis and the mediator of the encounter between compounds (metabolite-pre-tRNAs) and catalysts (peptidyl-pre-tRNAs). The encounter between peptidyl-pre-tRNA catalysts in protoribosome is favoured by metabolic pre-mRNAs and later resulted (given the high temperature at which this evolution is supposed to have taken place) in the evolution of mRNAs with codons of the type GNS. These mRNAs codified only for those amino acids that the coevolution theory of genetic code origin sees as the precursors of all other amino acids. Some aspects of the model here discussed might be rendered real by the transfer-messenger RNA molecule (tmRNA) which is here considered a molecular fossil of ancestral protein synthesis.

catalysis evolution peptidyl-pre-tRNA protein synthesis origin pre-tRNA protoribosome tmRNA 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Genetics and Biophysics Adriano Buzzati Traverso, CNRNaples, NapoliItaly

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