Coupling proto-RNA nucleotides and one-pot formation of their supramolecular assemblies

Genomics, Proteomics and Cell Biology

status report


November 25, 2023

Most contemporary theories for the chemical origin of life, including strong explanations of the RNA world hypothesis, include prebiotic synthesis of informational polymers.

Existing challenges to the prebiotic expression of RNA have encouraged exploration of the possibility that RNA could have evolved more easily on early Earth from a precursor messenger polymer or proto-RNA.

We proposed that proto-nucleobases of proto-RNA form immediate glycosides with ribose and that these proto-nucleosides form base pairs as monomers in aqueous solution, two properties not exhibited by existing nucleosides or nucleotides. Here we demonstrate that putative proto-nucleotides of barbituric acid and melamine model proto-nucleobases can be generated in a one-pot reaction with ribose-5-phosphate.

In addition, the proto-nucleotides formed in these reactions spontaneously form assemblies consistent with the presence of Watson-Crick-like base pairs. Together, these results lead to the prebiotic expression of heterocycles RNA-like molecules closely related to existing sites of RNA, which were eventually replaced by RNA during chemical and biological evolution.

Tyler B. Roche, Pranav J. Nedumburath, Suneesh C. Karunakaran, Gary B. Schuster and Nicholas V. hut
Life 2023, 13(11), 2200; DOI: 10.3390/life13112200 (Open Access)


Co-Founder of Spaceref, Explorers Club Fellow, Ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Labst Claimer.

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