Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

2011 Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, Ricardo Amils, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Henderson James (Jim) CleavesII, William M. Irvine, Daniele L. Pinti, Michel Viso

Self-Replication (Chemical)

  • Alonso RicardoEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-11274-4_1423


Autocatalysis, cross-catalysis, informational molecule


Self-replication in astrobiology refers to the ability of a chemical system to make copies of itself without the need for external instructions. The  emergence of self-replication is considered to be a necessary step for the origin of  life.


Self-replication occurs when an informational molecule (such as a  nucleic acid) directs the spontaneous synthesis of a replica of itself. Mechanisms for self-replication can be autocatalytic, where a molecule acts as a template to make a direct copy of itself, or cross-catalytic, where two or more molecules of different informational content amplify one another. Modern life forms use a complex cross-catalytic mechanism of replication that involves the participation of protein molecules that catalyze the replication of the informational polymer (nucleic acids), which are also involved in the synthesis of the catalysts themselves. Primordial life, however, could...

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References and Further Reading

  1. Gilbert W (1986) The RNA world. Nature 319:618ADSGoogle Scholar
  2. Lee DH, Granja JR, Martinez JA, Severin K, Ghadiri MR (1996) A self-replicating peptide. Nature 382:525ADSGoogle Scholar
  3. Lincoln TA, Joyce GF (2009) Self-sustained replication of an RNA enzyme. Science 323:1229ADSGoogle Scholar
  4. Orgel LE (1992) Molecular replication. Nature 358:203ADSGoogle Scholar
  5. Schrum JP, Ricardo A, Krishnamurty M, Blain JC, Szostak JW (2009) Efficient and rapid tempate-directed nucleic acid copying using 2′-amino-2′-3′-dideoxyribonucleoside-5′-phosphorimidazolide monomers. J Am Chem Soc 131:14560Google Scholar
  6. Sievers D, von Kiedrowski G (1994) Self-replication of complementary nucleotide-based oligomers. Nature 369:221ADSGoogle Scholar
  7. Terfort A, von Kiedrowski G (1992) Self-replication by condensation of 3-aminobenzamidines and 2-formylphenoxyacetic acids. Angew Chem Int Ed 31:654Google Scholar
  8. Tjivikua T, Ballester P, Rebek J (1990) A self-replicating system. 112:1249Google Scholar
  9. von Kiedrowski G (1986) A sel-replicating hexadeoxynucleotide. Angew Chem Int Ed 25:932Google Scholar
  10. Zielinski WS, Orgel LE (1987) Autocatalytic synthesis of a tetranucleotide analog. Nature 327:346ADSGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard UniversityBostonUSA