Taming prebiotic chemistry: The role of heterogeneous and interfacial catalysis in the emergence of a prebiotic catalytic/information polymer system

Pierre Alain Monnard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Cellular life is based on interacting polymer networks that serve as catalysts, genetic information and structural molecules. The complexity of the DNA, RNA and protein biochemistry suggests that it must have been preceded by simpler systems. The RNA world hypothesis proposes RNA as the prime candidate for such a primal system. Even though this proposition has gained currency, its investigations have highlighted several challenges with respect to bulk aqueous media: (1) the synthesis of RNA monomers is difficult; (2) efficient pathways for monomer polymerization into functional RNAs and their subsequent, sequence-specific replication remain elusive; and (3) the evolution of the RNA function towards cellular metabolism in isolation is questionable in view of the chemical mixtures expected on the early Earth. This review will address the question of the possible roles of heterogeneous media and catalysis as drivers for the emergence of RNA-based polymer networks. We will show that this approach to non-enzymatic polymerizations of RNA from monomers and RNA evolution cannot only solve some issues encountered during reactions in bulk aqueous solutions, but may also explain the co-emergence of the various polymers indispensable for life in complex mixtures and their organization into primitive networks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number40
JournalLife
Volume6
Issue number4
Number of pages19
ISSN2075-1729
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • Heterogeneous catalysis
  • Non-enzymatic polymerization
  • RNA catalysis
  • RNA world
  • Self-assembled and self-organized media

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