RNA World May Have Started Spinning with Triplet-Based Synthesis

RNA world models tend to stall at a crucial point: the genetic replication of folded RNA structures. Since these structures include ribozymes, the very elements that carry out replication, RNA world models need some sort of kickstart, a plausible mechanism whereby folded RNAs may be replicated.

Such a mechanism, suggest scientists based at the Medical Research Council (MRC), needn’t be anything like the one-base-at-a-time syntheses observed in today’s lifeforms. No, a three-base-at-a-time synthesis seems just the thing.

To support their contention that a triplet approach could overcome a paradox that has long bedeviled the RNA World Hypothesis, the MRC scientists described how they developed a ribozyme that can replicate folded RNAs, including itself. The ribozyme’s details appeared May 15 in the journal eLife , in an article entitled “Ribozyme-Catalysed RNA Synthesis Using Triplet Building Blocks.”

“We report RNA-catalysed RNA synthesis on structured templates when using trinucleotide ...