Abstract: Carbonaceous Chondrite (CC) meteorites are fragments of asteroids, solar planetesimals that never became large enough to separate matter by their density, like terrestrial planets. CC contains various amounts of organic carbon and carry a record of chemical evolution as it came to be in the Solar System, at the time the Earth was formed and before the origins of life. We review this record as it pertains to the chiral asymmetry determined for several organic compounds in CC, which reaches a broad molecular distribution and enantiomeric excesses of up to 50%–60%. Because homochirality is an indispensable attribute of extant polymers and these meteoritic enantiomeric excesses are still, to date, the only case of chiral asymmetry in organic molecules measured outside the biosphere, the possibility of an exogenous delivery of primed prebiotic compounds to early Earth from meteorites is often proposed. Whether this exogenous delivery held a chiral advantage in molecular evolution remains an open question, as many others regarding the origins of life are.
Abstract: It is still uncertain how the first minimal cellular systems evolved to the complexity required for life to begin, but it is obvious that the role of amphiphilic compounds in the origin of life is one of huge relevance. Over the last four decades a number of studies have demonstrated how amphiphilic molecules can be synthesized under plausibly prebiotic conditions. The majority of these experiments also gave evidence for the ability of so formed amphiphiles to assemble in closed membranes of vesicles that, in principle, could have compartmented first biological processes on early Earth, including the emergence of self-replicating systems. For a competitive selection of the best performing molecular replicators to become operative, some kind of bounded units capable of harboring them are indispensable. Without the competition between dynamic populations of different compartments, life itself could not be distinguished from an otherwise disparate array or network of molecular interactions. In this review, we describe experiments that demonstrate how different prebiotically-available building blocks can become precursors of phospholipids that form vesicles. We discuss the experimental conditions that resemble plausibly those of the early Earth (or elsewhere) and consider the analytical methods that were used to characterize synthetic products. Two brief sections focus on phosphorylating agents, catalysts and coupling agents with particular attention given to their geochemical context. In Section 5, we describe how condensing agents such as cyanamide and urea can promote the abiotic synthesis of phospholipids. We conclude the review by reflecting on future studies of phospholipid compartments, particularly, on evolvable chemical systems that include giant vesicles composed of different lipidic amphiphiles.
Abstract: Herein we present the tRNA core hypothesis, which emphasizes the central role of tRNAs molecules in the origin and evolution of fundamental biological processes. tRNAs gave origin to the first genes (mRNA) and the peptidyl transferase center (rRNA), proto-tRNAs were at the core of a proto-translation system, and the anticodon and operational codes then arose in tRNAs molecules. Metabolic pathways emerged from evolutionary pressures of the decoding systems. The transitions from the RNA world to the ribonucleoprotein world to modern biological systems were driven by three kinds of tRNAs transitions, to wit, tRNAs leading to both mRNA and rRNA.
Abstract: tRNAs are the fundamental components of the translation machinery as they deliver amino acids to the ribosomes during protein synthesis. Beyond their essential function in translation, tRNAs also function in regulating gene expression, modulating apoptosis and several other biological processes. There are multiple layers of regulatory mechanisms in each step of tRNA biogenesis. For example, tRNA 3′ trailer processing is altered upon nutrient stress; tRNA modification is reprogrammed under various stresses; nuclear accumulation of tRNAs occurs upon nutrient deprivation; tRNA halves accumulate upon oxidative stress. Here we address how environmental stresses can affect nearly every step of tRNA biology and we describe the possible regulatory mechanisms that influence the function or expression of tRNAs under stress conditions.
Abstract: The origins of the components of genetic coding are examined in the present study. Genetic information arose from replicator induction by metabolite in accordance with the metabolic expansion law. Messenger RNA and transfer RNA stemmed from a template for binding the aminoacyl-RNA synthetase ribozymes employed to synthesize peptide prosthetic groups on RNAs in the Peptidated RNA World. Coevolution of the genetic code with amino acid biosynthesis generated tRNA paralogs that identify a last universal common ancestor (LUCA) of extant life close to Methanopyrus, which in turn points to archaeal tRNA introns as the most primitive introns and the anticodon usage of Methanopyrus as an ancient mode of wobble. The prediction of the coevolution theory of the genetic code that the code should be a mutable code has led to the isolation of optional and mandatory synthetic life forms with altered protein alphabets.
Abstract: In 1957, Francis Crick et al. suggested an ingenious explanation for the process of frame maintenance. The idea was based on the notion of comma-free codes. Although Crick’s hypothesis proved to be wrong, in 1996, Arquès and Michel discovered the existence of a weaker version of such codes in eukaryote and prokaryote genomes, namely the so-called circular codes. Since then, circular code theory has invariably evoked great interest and made significant progress. In this article, the codon distributions in maximal comma-free, maximal self-complementary C3 and maximal self-complementary circular codes are discussed, i.e., we investigate in how many of such codes a given codon participates. As the main (and surprising) result, it is shown that the codons can be separated into very few classes (three, or five, or six) with respect to their frequency. Moreover, the distribution classes can be hierarchically ordered as refinements from maximal comma-free codes via maximal self-complementary C3 codes to maximal self-complementary circular codes.