The origin of RNA and "My Grandfather's Axe".

TitleThe origin of RNA and "My Grandfather's Axe".
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsHud, NV, Cafferty, BJ, Krishnamurthy, R, Williams, LDean
JournalChem Biol
Date Published2013 Apr 18
KeywordsBiological Evolution, Ferrous Compounds, Ions, Magnesium, Models, Molecular, Ribose, RNA

The origin of RNA is one of the most formidable problems facing prebiotic chemists. We consider RNA as a product of evolution, as opposed to the more conventional view of RNA as originally being the product of abiotic processes. We have come to accept that life's informational polymers have changed in chemical structure since their emergence, which presents a quandary similar to the paradox of "My Grandfather's Axe". Here, we discuss reasons why all contemporary components of RNA--the nucleobases, ribose, and phosphate--are not likely the original components of the first informational polymer(s) of life. We also evaluate three distinct models put forth as pathways for how the earliest informational polymers might have assembled. We see the quest to uncover the ancestors of RNA as an exciting scientific journey, one that is already providing additional chemical constraints on the origin of life and one that has the potential to produce self-assembling materials, novel catalysis, and bioactive compounds.

Alternate JournalChem. Biol.
PubMed ID23601635