Paleontological Journal

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 481–488 | Cite as

When, where, and in what environment could the RNA world appear and evolve?



The environment necessary for the existence, amplification, and evolution of the RNA world, the difficulties of the abiogenous synthesis of RNA, and paradoxical situations with the stability of RNA, its functions, and the place of RNA in the geological history of the Earth are discussed. The chemical instability of the covalent structure of RNA in the aqueous medium is incompatible with the necessity of water for formation of its functionally active conformations (“water paradox”). The stable double-helical structure of RNA required for replication is incompatible with the stable compact conformations of single-stranded RNA molecules that are necessary for catalytic functions (conformational paradox). There was a very short time gap (or no gap at all) between the end of the massive meteorite bombardment of the Earth (3.9 Ga ago) and the appearance of the first evidence of cellular life (bacteria) in the Earth’s rocks (3.8–3.85 Ga ago or even earlier) (geological paradox). It is concluded that the RNA world could not appear, exist, or evolve into cellular forms of life on the Earth. This paper briefly discusses the possibility of an extraterrestrial origin of the RNA world and its extraterrestrial evolution with a subsequent distribution in space (mainly by comets) of the cellular form of life as more resistant to the environment as compared with free RNA.

Key words

RNA world abiogenic synthesis geologic history 


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© Pleiades Publishing, Ltd. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Protein ResearchPushchino, Moscow oblastRussia

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