What was the first living molecule - RNA or protein? This question embodies the major disagreement in studies on the origin of life. The fact that in contemporary cells RNA polymerase is a protein and peptidyl transferase consists of RNA suggests the existence of a mutual catalytic dependence between these two kinds of biopolymers. I suggest that this dependence is a `frozen accident', a remnant from the first living system. This system is proposed to be a combination of an RNA molecule capable of catalyzing amino acid polymerization and the resulting protein functioning as an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. The specificity of the protein synthesis is thought to be achieved by the composition of the surrounding medium and the specificity of the RNA synthesis - by Watson - Crick base pairing. Despite its apparent simplicity, the system possesses a great potential to evolve into a primitive ribosome and further to life, as it is seen today. This model provides a possible explanation for the origin of the interaction between nucleic acids and protein. Based on the suggested system, I propose a new definition of life as a system of nucleic acid and protein polymerases with a constant supply of monomers, energy and protection.
Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
- Pub Date:
- October 2000
- ORIGIN OF LIFE