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Landmarks in the Evolution of (t)-RNAs from the Origin of Life up to Their Present Role in Human Cognition

Institute for Biochemistry, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University Greifswald, Felix-Hausdorff-Str. 4, 17489 Greifswald, Germany
Department of Human Genetics, University Medicine Greifswald and Interfaculty Institute of Genetics and Functional Genomics, University of Greifswald, Fleischmannstr. 42-44, 17489 Greifswald, Germany
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Lluís Ribas de Pouplana and Adrian Gabriel Torres
Received: 29 October 2015 / Revised: 7 December 2015 / Accepted: 15 December 2015 / Published: 23 December 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evolution of tRNA)
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How could modern life have evolved? The answer to that question still remains unclear. However, evidence is growing that, since the origin of life, RNA could have played an important role throughout evolution, right up to the development of complex organisms and even highly sophisticated features such as human cognition. RNA mediated RNA-aminoacylation can be seen as a first landmark on the path from the RNA world to modern DNA- and protein-based life. Likewise, the generation of the RNA modifications that can be found in various RNA species today may already have started in the RNA world, where such modifications most likely entailed functional advantages. This association of modification patterns with functional features was apparently maintained throughout the further course of evolution, and particularly tRNAs can now be seen as paradigms for the developing interdependence between structure, modification and function. It is in this spirit that this review highlights important stepping stones of the development of (t)RNAs and their modifications (including aminoacylation) from the ancient RNA world up until their present role in the development and maintenance of human cognition. The latter can be seen as a high point of evolution at its present stage, and the susceptibility of cognitive features to even small alterations in the proper structure and functioning of tRNAs underscores the evolutionary relevance of this RNA species. View Full-Text
Keywords: tRNA; RNA world; aminoacylation; RNA modification; cognition; epigenetics tRNA; RNA world; aminoacylation; RNA modification; cognition; epigenetics

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Balke, D.; Kuss, A.; Müller, S. Landmarks in the Evolution of (t)-RNAs from the Origin of Life up to Their Present Role in Human Cognition. Life 2016, 6, 1.

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