Encyclopedia of Geobiology

2011 Edition
| Editors: Joachim Reitner, Volker Thiel


Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9212-1_176

The term “RNA-World,” first suggested by Walter Gilbert in 1986, describes a popular concept on a hypothetical early stage in the origin of life on Earth. Based on discoveries of enzymatic activities in microbial ribonucleic acids (RNA), a system was suggested where primordial RNA molecules accounted for both, the storage of genetic information and catalytic functions necessary to assemble themselves in a primitive self-replicating system. The RNA molecules evolved in self-replicating patterns, using recombination and mutation to explore new functions and to adapt to new niches (Gilbert, 1986). Such a system would not have required the presence of DNA and/or protein enzymes for biochemical reactions. For further reading, please refer to “Origin of Life.”


  1. Gilbert, W., 1986. The RNA world. Nature, 319, 618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011