RNA world hypothesis

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The RNA world hypothesis proposes that a world filled with life based on ribonucleic acid (RNA) predates the current world of life based on deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and protein. RNA, which can both store information like DNA and act as an enzyme like proteins, may have supported cellular or pre-cellular life. Some hypotheses as to the origin of life present RNA-based catalysis and information storage as the first step in the evolution of cellular life.

The RNA world is proposed to have evolved into the DNA and protein world of today. DNA, through its greater chemical stability, took over the role of data storage while protein, which is more flexible in catalysis through the great variety of amino acids, became the specialized catalytic molecules. The RNA world hypothesis suggests that RNA in modern cells, in particular rRNA (RNA in the ribosome which catalyzes protein production), is an evolutionary remnant of the RNA world.

Contents

History

The phrase "RNA World" was first used by Nobel laureate Walter Gilbert in 1986, in a commentary on recent observations of the catalytic properties of various forms of RNA.[1] However, the idea of independent RNA life is older and can be found in Carl Woese's 1968 book The Genetic Code.[2] In 1963, the molecular biologist Alexander Rich, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had posited much the same idea in an article he contributed to a volume issued in honor of Nobel-laureate physiologist Albert Szent-Györgyi.

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