Questionable Motives

January 11, 2010

A cautionary tale: which came first in the origin of life?

Filed under: abiogenesis,Biology,Chemistry,Science,Skepticim — tildeb @ 3:30 pm

A new study published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences rejects the theory that the origin of life stems from a system of self-catalytic molecules capable of experiencing Darwinian evolution without the need of RNA or DNA and their replication.

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) defines life as a “self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution.” The scientific theories on the origin of life revolve around two main ideas: one focuses on genetics — with RNA or DNA replication as an essential condition for Darwinian evolution to take place — and the other focuses on metabolism. It is clear that both situations must have begun with simple organic molecules formed by prebiotic processes, as was demonstrated by the Miller-Urey experiment (in which organic molecules were created from inorganic substances).

Science more recently demonstrated that sets of chemical components store information about their composition which can be duplicated and transmitted to their descendents. This has led to their being named “compound genomes” or composomes. In other words, heredity does not require information in order to be stored in RNA or DNA molecules. These “compound genomes” apparently fulfil the conditions required to be considered evolutionary units, which suggests a pathway from pre-Darwinian dynamics to a minimum protocell.

Researchers concluded that this fundamental limitation of “compound genomes” should lead to caution towards theories that set metabolism first as the origin as life, even though former metabolic systems could have offered a stable habitat in which primitive polymers such as RNA could have evolved.

Researchers state that different prebiotic Earth scenarios can be considered. However, the basic property of life as a system capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution began when genetic information was finally stored and transmitted such as occurs in nucleotide polymers (RNA and DNA).

From the article at Science Daily here.

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