"Was It the Origin of Life"? Biologists Create Self-replicating RNA Molecule
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April 12, 2011

"Was It the Origin of Life"? Biologists Create Self-replicating RNA Molecule

CaliforniaNebula It's paradoxical that as our leading microbiologists look to create the building blocks of life in Earth-bound labs, our Universe is alive with the building blocks for DNA and RNA. The giant gas nebula in outer space are rife with sugars that form ribose --the backbone of RNA. There's no rational reason why the system of DNA and RNA that shaped life on Earth should be lmlited to our remote biosphere.

One theory of the origin of life suggests that RNA coding is what gave the primitive cellular structure of early Earth the catalyst they needed to become life. With a Universe chock full of sugar there's no reason that early RNA worlds have not been evolving in their own unique ways in many of the 100 billion galaxies estimated to exist in the observable Universe.

Meanwhile, back on Earth at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK,  have created synthetic molecules that copy genetic material. The enzyme, tC19Z, that has been synthesised could be an artificial version of one of the first enzymes that ever existed on our planet three billion years ago -- and a clue to how life itself got started. Their goal is to create fully self-replicating RNA molecules in the lab.

The dominant theory of how life started involves the emergence in Earth's early history of a self-replicator -- the original molecule of life was an RNA that could make copies of other RNAs, including itself.

As evolution advanced, this self-replicating molecule ceased to exist, with the majority of Earth's organisms using DNA to store their genetic information while using other enzymes to copy itself.

Led by Philipp Holliger, the Cambridge-based reseach team have tested a theory called the "RNA World Hypothesis", which suggests that life was originally based not on DNA but on a related chemical called RNA, which can carry genetic information and  fold-up into three-dimensional shapes and function as an enzyme, the biological catalyst that speeds up certain chemical reactions.

RTEmagicC_Full_length_hammerhead_ribozyme.png Holliger’s group started with an RNA enzyme called R18, which could make copies of other short pieces of RNA, although in an error-prone manner. "It’s like a keyboard with which you can only write one or two words," says Holliger.

To evolve this initial R18 RNA, the group created 50 million clones, each containing random genetic changes in the RNA sequence, and selected those with the best RNA-copying abilities. And by repeating this process a number of times, they generated progressively more powerful enzymes.

"We took all the beneficial mutations that had accumulated from various selection experiments, sorted out what’s helpful and what’s not, and combined them into a single molecule," explains Holliger.

The RNA enzyme tC19Z, created by Philipp Holliger and colleagues, functions like a self-replicator. Until now, the only known RNA-copying RNA was a molecule called R18, which can only copy RNA segments up to 14 "letters" long, and only works on certain sequences.

Holliger made a vast library of thousands of different versions of the R18 molecule and screened them to see which ones made more copies. After several cycles of copying variants and looking for new improvements, he found several, which he baked into his final synthetic enzyme, tC19Z.

tC19Z can reliably copy RNA sequences up to 95 letters long, a sevenfold increase on R18. Its performance varies depending on the sequence it's copying, but it is much less picky than R18. Holliger compares R18 to a sports car that works only on a smooth, flat road. "We have fitted a four-wheel drive, so it can go off-road a bit," he told newscientist.com.

Crucially, tC19Z can copy pieces of RNA that are almost half as long (48 per cent) as itself. If an RNA enzyme is to copy itself, it has to be able to copy sequences as long as itself, and tC19Z is closing in on that goal.

In a neat twist, Holliger's team also showed that tC19Z can make copies of another RNA enzyme, which then worked correctly. That suggests that, once the first self-replicating RNA had appeared, it would have been able to surround itself with additional molecular equipment, kick-starting the evolution of more complex life.

The Daily Galaxy via newscientist.com and  thenakedscientists.com

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Image top of page: The beautiful California Nebula in Perseus 65 light-years long, is just a small part of a giant molecular cloud that's as big as the largest such cloud in Orion. The recently found cloud is 1,470 light-years from Earth -- only slightly farther than the Orion A Molecular Cloud, home of the Orion Nebula, around 1,350 light-years from us. NASA/Hubble.

Comments

Maybe the origins of life was non-carbon based units creating a biological system that could self replicate, improve itself enough to create it's own self replicating carbon based biological units and/or silicon based units able to create ...

The title is misleading. According to the second to last paragraph, it can only copy half of itself. The title claims self-replication.

if im drive only part way to the location am i still driving?^^^

any thing can becomes possible when Its time of revelation comes.

Uh, paragraph 7 ... where did the R18 come from??? Who created that?

"That suggests that, once the first self-replicating RNA had appeared, it would have been able to surround itself with additional molecular equipment"

This statement suggests the some how the "will of life" was already in place with simple RNA manipulating it's environment and it's future outcome before it became a living cell. Could/would a little rock on the ground surround its self with something to make itself a bigger rock and why?

Some people don't even get the question - Geeeez!

Maybe I don't get it, but "cloning" something doesn't mean you created it. The concept of abiogenesis was proven false by scientist LONG ago. (Nobody has made something living from non-living). Science, archeology, and new findings keep repeatedly pointing to a divine creator, but is continually silenced...at least in this country.

> Maybe I don't get it, but "cloning" something doesn't mean you created it.

Yes, you don't get it. The formation of amino acids has been shown myltiple times already, so if we can show a relatively simple RNA that can clone itself, then that is all needed to show the possible development chain from inorganic life to self-replication. If a molecule creates something very similar to itself, but with errors, that is the very basis for evolutionary development. The fact that such molecules can be formed from inorganic matter has already been proven by Miller–Urey experiment and others since that. Just look at the Wikipedia page of abiogenesis for a simple intro information.

And no - abiogenesis has not been disproven. 'Living thing' is just a combination of 'non-living' atoms in a structure that allows self-replication (or cross-replication).

Life has/obtained certain qualities:

- It actively interacts with its environment
- It's Biology actively extracts energy from the environment
- Life is programed to survive individually and as a species
- Life is required to make life from non-life

The "Will" of life had to start somewhere - where non-life stopped being 100% passive to its environment and became actively interacting to obtain the qualities above. There are millions of chemical reactions taking place in a living cell each second to keep it actively alive (refer above again). Why don't living cells just stop living - why should they care if they are alive or not? As soon as it is proved how passive matter becomes active life I'll start believing in biogenesis.

Rosetta Stone is proprietary language-learning software produced by Rosetta Stone;Ltd. Its title and its logo refer to the Rosetta Stone , an artifact inscribed in multiple languages that helped Jean-Fran?ois Champollion to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The Rosetta Stone software uses a combination of images, text, and sound, with difficulty levels increasing as the student progresses, in order to teach various vocabulary terms and grammatical functions intuitively, without drills or translation. They call this the Dynamic Immersion method;. The goal is to teach languages the way first languages are learned.Now,the Rosetta Stone;Ltd have several kinds of the Rosetta Stone language on sale,such as Rosetta Stone Spanish,Rosetta Stone German and Rosetta Stone Italian, these Rosetta Stone Languages are very popular now!

@"Scientist":
You are ignorant of the findings from the last few decades of archeology which has not yet seeped down to the general public.
probably because there is considerable resistance to such ideas in Jewish and Christian circles.

Middle Eastern archeology was originally established to “prove” the authenticity of biblical accounts in their totality but ended up disproving an embarrassing number of them instead.

Tel Aviv University archaeologist Ze'ev Herzog wrote:
This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations - - -: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai. [http://mideastfacts.org/facts/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=32&Itemid=34]

In other words, the opposite of what you claim is happening: modern scientific findings which challenge the Jewish and Christian religions are not being reported in the mainstream presses of countries where these religions hold a lot of political power. It keeps people like you in blissful ignorance so that you will vote the "right" way.

@Scientist:

The opposite of what you claim is happening. Scientific findings that challenge religious beliefs are not published in the mainstream presses of countries where these religions have strong political power. It keeps people like you blissfully ignorant.

Tel Aviv University archaeologist Ze'ev Herzog wrote:
This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations - - -: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai. [http://mideastfacts.org/facts/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=32&Itemid=34]
These facts have been known to scientists for several decades but have not yet seeped down to the average member of the public in fanatically religiously conservative countries such as Israel and the U.S.A. Ironically, Middle Eastern archeology was originally established to “prove” the authenticity of biblical accounts in their totality but ended up disproving an embarrassing number of them instead.

send me new picture

People are so pathetically clinging onto their god, they reject any science they can that might suggest another storey from some kind of ridiculous creation myth, from the Hebrews to the Mayans.

Its actually tragic to watch adults do it... really genuinely depresses me that even now in 2012, when we just landed a rover on Mars people believe this Iron age nonsense.... humph... :-(

Annoyed that beautiful discovery is turned into a childish debate where people who understand the significance of findings like this have to defend it from ignorance.

Just keep religion out of this and enjoy the science, please? I'm sick of seeing religious debates on every scientific article I read on the internet. I'm sick of seeing religious people trying to attack science, and I'm sick of seeing scientific people trying to attack religion. There's really no call for scientists to attack the beliefs of Christians and other religions (Though insofar as defendng the scientific discoveries goes, you're completely in the right), and there's no need for Christians and other religions to attack scientists, so just stop, please.

This discovery just presents more difficulty with abigenesis. The replicating molecule was created in a lab under lab conditions by intellegent scientist(id). The molecule they created just reintroduces the probability argument of how such a complex molecule came by chance. If the molecule can replicate a molecule 48 percent as long as itself and the molecule that it replicated was 95 letters long that means the synthetic molecule was about 200 letters long which is highly complex. Even with its high complexity its replication capabilities vary. Not to mention that this exact molecule must form in the same place at the same time as the rna molecule that can carry out the functions of life, this molecule could also replicate molecules that do not support life. Scientist must make this exact molecule under prebiotic earth conditions without any interference from the scientist themselves if they want to produce a valid argument.

I am trying to confirm rna was replicated. As per D Ward Rare Earth book -2000- this has not been done but even WIKI does not give me an answer; the search says 'rna duplicated 2009--- but was it?

You know, I believe in God and I believe he created everything including science. So for me to argue against valid scientific data is to argue against the system that God has put in place in the Universe. How can science and faith be at odds if God created it? I don't need to argue to prove God exists because faith isn't about winning an argument, it's relational.


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