CRC 235 Emergence of Life

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Nucleic acid catalysis under potential prebiotic conditions

K. Le Vay 2019 Chem. Asian J.


K. Le Vay, E. Salibi, E.Y. Song, H. Mutschler

Chemistry and Asian Journal


Catalysis by nucleic acids is indispensable for extant cellular life and it is widely accepted that nucleic acid enzymes were crucial for the emergence of primitive life 3.5 – 4 billion years ago. However, geochemical conditions on early Earth must have differed greatly from the constant internal milieus of today's cells. In order to explore plausible scenarios for early molecular evolution, it is therefore essential to understand how different physicochemical parameters such as temperature, pH, and ionic composition influence nucleic acid catalysis and to explore to what extent nucleic acid enzymes can adapt to non‐physiological conditions. In this article, we give an overview of the research on catalysis of nucleic acids, in particular catalytic RNAs (ribozymes) and DNAs (deoxyribozymes), under extreme and/or unusual conditions that may relate to prebiotic environments.

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