Abiotic synthesis of RNA in water: a common goal of prebiotic chemistry and bottom-up synthetic biology.

TitleAbiotic synthesis of RNA in water: a common goal of prebiotic chemistry and bottom-up synthetic biology.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsCafferty, BJ, Hud, NV
JournalCurr Opin Chem Biol
Date Published2014 Oct
KeywordsBiogenesis, Nucleotides, Polymerization, RNA, RNA Folding, Synthetic Biology, Urea, Water

For more than half a century chemists have searched for a plausible prebiotic synthesis of RNA. The initial advances of the 1960s and 1970s were followed by decades of measured progress and a growing pessimism about overcoming remaining challenges. Fortunately, the past few years have provided a number of important advances, including new abiotic routes for the synthesis of nucleobases, nucleosides, and nucleotides. Recent discoveries also provide additional support for the hypothesis that RNA is the product of evolution, being preceded by ancestral genetic polymers, or pre-RNAs, that are synthesized more easily than RNA. In some cases, parallel searches for plausible prebiotic routes to RNA and pre-RNAs have provided more than one experimentally verified synthesis of RNA substructures and possible predecessors. Just as the synthesis of a contemporary biological molecule cannot be understood without knowledge of cellular metabolism, it is likely that an integrated approach that takes into account both plausible prebiotic reactions and plausible prebiotic environments will ultimately provide the most satisfactory and unifying chemical scenarios for the origin of nucleic acids. In this context, recent advances towards the abiotic synthesis of RNA and candidates for pre-RNAs are beginning to suggest that some molecules (e.g., urea) were multi-faceted contributors to the origin of nucleic acids, and the origin of life.

Alternate JournalCurr Opin Chem Biol
PubMed ID25438801