Biochemists resurrect ‘molecular fossils’: Findings challenge assumptions about origins of life


Before there was life on Earth, there were molecules. A primordial soup. At some point a few specialized molecules began replicating. This self-replication, scientists agree, kick-started a biochemical process that would lead to the first organisms. But exactly how that happened — how those molecules began replicating — has been one of science's enduring mysteries.

Now, research from UNC School of Medicine biochemist Charles Carter, PhD, appearing in the September 13 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, offers an intriguing new view on how life began. Carter's work is based on lab experiments during which his team recreated ancient protein enzymes that likely played a vital role in helping create life on Earth. Carter's finding flies in the face of the widely-held theory that Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) self-replicated without the aid of simple proteins and eventually led to life as we know it.

In the early 1980s, researchers found that ribozymes — RNA enzymes — act as catalysts. It was evidence that RNA can be both the blueprints and the chemical catalysts that put those blueprints into action. This finding led to the "RNA World" hypothesis, which posits that RNA alone triggered the rise of life from a sea of molecules.

Written By: Science Daily
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  1. I saw the original article yesterday and thought I’d like to submit it here for comment, but rod-the-farmer is up on things…

    Is this a legitimate line of research? Carter’s argument seems convincing to this layperson, and I’m really curious as to how the evidence stacks up.

  2. Can someone come up with a better way of saying ‘hey here’s a new idea’ than ‘it flies in face of the established scientific views’. This isn’t a new idea from what I can tell, I think it’s called the Peptide-RNA World Hypothesis.

  3. The alternate hypothesis is that RNA/DNA evolved off earth. Do we have evidence it evolved on earth?

  4. In reply to #4 by Roedy:

    The alternate hypothesis is that RNA/DNA evolved off earth.

    Nothing conclusive. – Just evidence of organic molecules in space, nebulae, and cometary material.

    As on this thread:-

    Do we have evidence it evolved on earth?

    There are various abiogenesis models based on conditions on early Earth, plus the fact that fossils and chemistry, show life a long way back on early Earth.

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