According to a leading origin of life theory (RNA world), RNA formed spontaneously before DNA and performed its functions for early life.
From Britain’s Medical Research Council:
James Attwater and Aniela Wochner from the Holliger lab have made an RNA molecule that is able to accurately copy RNA sequences that are longer than itself – more than 200 building blocks long – uncovering a synthetic capability that could have been crucial for RNA-based early life.
Remarkably, the ribozyme was found not in a liquid watery solution but by conducting molecular evolution experiments at frozen temperatures in ice, which the researchers think may have protected the fragile RNA molecules on the surface of the violent early earth. The resulting ribozyme was not only adapted to the cold environment but could synthesize long RNA sequences at both frozen and ambient temperatures.
Informed sources note that the molecule can replicate other template RNAs if it is given activated nucleotides, the right buffer, and other advantages.
Of course, these advantages are assumed to have been easily available in nature at the time.
File with: No, ice was life’s birthplace, not clay
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