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Life 2017, 7(4), 41; doi:10.3390/life7040041

The Role of Templating in the Emergence of RNA from the Prebiotic Chemical Mixture

1
Origins Institute and Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Science, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L8, Canada
2
Origins Institute and Department of Physics and Astronomy, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 August 2017 / Revised: 25 September 2017 / Accepted: 26 October 2017 / Published: 31 October 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The RNA World and the Origin of Life)
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Abstract

Biological RNA is a uniform polymer in three senses: it uses nucleotides of a single chirality; it uses only ribose sugars and four nucleobases rather than a mixture of other sugars and bases; and it uses only 3′-5′ bonds rather than a mixture of different bond types. We suppose that prebiotic chemistry would generate a diverse mixture of potential monomers, and that random polymerization would generate non-uniform strands of mixed chirality, monomer composition, and bond type. We ask what factors lead to the emergence of RNA from this mixture. We show that template-directed replication can lead to the emergence of all the uniform properties of RNA by the same mechanism. We study a computational model in which nucleotides react via polymerization, hydrolysis, and template-directed ligation. Uniform strands act as templates for ligation of shorter oligomers of the same type, whereas mixed strands do not act as templates. The three uniform properties emerge naturally when the ligation rate is high. If there is an exact symmetry, as with the chase of chirality, the uniform property arises via a symmetry-breaking phase transition. If there is no exact symmetry, as with monomer selection and backbone regioselectivity, the uniform property emerges gradually as the rate of template-directed ligation is increased. View Full-Text
Keywords: RNA world; non-enzymatic template-directed replication; chirality; regioselectivity; prebiotic chemistry; symmetry breaking RNA world; non-enzymatic template-directed replication; chirality; regioselectivity; prebiotic chemistry; symmetry breaking
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Tupper, A.S.; Shi, K.; Higgs, P.G. The Role of Templating in the Emergence of RNA from the Prebiotic Chemical Mixture. Life 2017, 7, 41.

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