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Life 2016, 6(4), 43; doi:10.3390/life6040043

Piecemeal Buildup of the Genetic Code, Ribosomes, and Genomes from Primordial tRNA Building Blocks

1
Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max-Planck-Institut für Evolutionsbiologie, 24306 Plön, Germany
2
Evolutionary Bioinformatics Laboratory, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Koji Tamura
Received: 31 October 2016 / Revised: 21 November 2016 / Accepted: 29 November 2016 / Published: 2 December 2016
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Abstract

The origin of biomolecular machinery likely centered around an ancient and central molecule capable of interacting with emergent macromolecular complexity. tRNA is the oldest and most central nucleic acid molecule of the cell. Its co-evolutionary interactions with aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase protein enzymes define the specificities of the genetic code and those with the ribosome their accurate biosynthetic interpretation. Phylogenetic approaches that focus on molecular structure allow reconstruction of evolutionary timelines that describe the history of RNA and protein structural domains. Here we review phylogenomic analyses that reconstruct the early history of the synthetase enzymes and the ribosome, their interactions with RNA, and the inception of amino acid charging and codon specificities in tRNA that are responsible for the genetic code. We also trace the age of domains and tRNA onto ancient tRNA homologies that were recently identified in rRNA. Our findings reveal a timeline of recruitment of tRNA building blocks for the formation of a functional ribosome, which holds both the biocatalytic functions of protein biosynthesis and the ability to store genetic memory in primordial RNA genomic templates. View Full-Text
Keywords: genome evolution; origin of proteins; ribosome evolution; origin of the genetic code genome evolution; origin of proteins; ribosome evolution; origin of the genetic code
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Caetano-Anollés, D.; Caetano-Anollés, G. Piecemeal Buildup of the Genetic Code, Ribosomes, and Genomes from Primordial tRNA Building Blocks. Life 2016, 6, 43.

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