Monday, October 19, 2020

closing in on the RNA world

As a former ribosome researcher, I tend to obsess about the tail end of the RNA world (the early phase of evolution when life used only RNA, no proteins or DNA) sometimes, namely the point when a ribozyme started making peptide bonds, and cleared the way for the division of labour between proteins, DNA and RNA that dominates life today. Now, however it is time to get really excited about the beginning of the RNA world, the point when the very first ribozyme started making more of its own kind. Experiments using in-vitro evolution to find such a ribozyme and they are tantalisingly close to success. Which would be amazing because from that point, we could rerun the evolution of the RNA world in the lab ...

So, while we're waiting for this breakthrough, here's my feature explaining just how brilliant that will be.

Towards the birth of evolution

Current Biology Volume 30, Issue 20, 19 October 2020, Pages R1233-R1235

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

The images thrown in were even more symbolic this time than normally:

Some sort of membrane or other enclosure was necessary for the early precursors of life to keep their molecules together and protect them from harm. (Photo: Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay.)

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