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Open AccessArticle

A Polyaddition Model for the Prebiotic Polymerization of RNA and RNA-Like Polymers

by Alex Spaeth 1,*,† and Mason Hargrave 2,*,†
1
Department of Computer Engineering, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA
2
Center for Studies in Physics and Biology, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10065, USA
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Life 2020, 10(2), 12; https://doi.org/10.3390/life10020012
Received: 16 December 2019 / Revised: 24 January 2020 / Accepted: 26 January 2020 / Published: 2 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Themed Issue Commemorating Prof. David Deamer's 80th Birthday)
Implicit in the RNA world hypothesis is that prebiotic RNA synthesis, despite occurring in an environment without biochemical catalysts, produced the long RNA polymers which are essential to the formation of life. In order to investigate the prebiotic formation of long RNA polymers, we consider a general solution of functionally identical monomer units that are capable of bonding to form linear polymers by a step-growth process. Under the assumptions that (1) the solution is well-mixed and (2) bonding/unbonding rates are independent of polymerization state, the concentration of each length of polymer follows the geometric Flory-Schulz distribution. We consider the rate dynamics that produce this equilibrium; connect the rate dynamics, Gibbs free energy of bond formation, and the bonding probability; solve the dynamics in closed form for the representative special case of a Flory-Schulz initial condition; and demonstrate the effects of imposing a maximum polymer length. Afterwards, we derive a lower bound on the error introduced by truncation and compare this lower bound to the actual error found in our simulation. Finally, we suggest methods to connect these theoretical predictions to experimental results. View Full-Text
Keywords: origins of life; nonenzymatic polymerization; astrobiology; RNA world; prebiotic chemistry; linear step-growth polymerization; Flory-Schulz distribution; chemical kinetics; thermodynamics origins of life; nonenzymatic polymerization; astrobiology; RNA world; prebiotic chemistry; linear step-growth polymerization; Flory-Schulz distribution; chemical kinetics; thermodynamics
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Spaeth, A.; Hargrave, M. A Polyaddition Model for the Prebiotic Polymerization of RNA and RNA-Like Polymers. Life 2020, 10, 12.

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