I worked in that kitchen

In The Prebiotic Kitchen:
[Via The Loom]

To explain the origin of life, scientists seek to explain the origin of its components. The three most important of these are RNA, DNA, and proteins.

Just about all life today uses DNA to encode its genetic information. The only exception are viruses that use a single-stranded version of DNA, known …


This is a very enlightening report. When I was in High School in the mid 70s, I got a small research grant from the state of Texas. I had grandiose ideas of winning the Westinghouse Science Talent Search (now sponsored by Intel). I did not even come close but I had fun.

My project was derived from research by Sidney Fox on strange things called proteinoids. The idea was that prebiotic amino acids could land on hot lava and start reacting (or burning, depending on your view). Then salt water would hit this hot mix and an new structure could be see, microspheres.

These small, cell-like bodies had many properties similar to real cells. One of the important aspects of life on Earth is the cell, a structure that separates the inside from the outside . This permits local concentrations of molecules to rise high enough for reactions that would not occur in the much more dilute ocean.

So I spent a lot of time working on different conditions for forming microspheres,wrote up my results and sent it off. No luck but …

I wonder if something like this could have helped an RNA world become real life. The ironic thing about an RNA world is that RNA is the least stable of all the major biomolecues. So, for a long time, the possibility that it could the the FIRST molecule was viewed with skepticism. A lot of work, though has indicated that it really is a prime candidate,a s it can accomplish all the major aspects of life, including catalysis and reproduction.

Now cells membranes are mainly fatty compounds that form a lipid bilayer separating inside from outside. There are lots of important proteins in this lipid bilayer but they are not really viewed as structural in nature but regulatory.

But what if in the prebiotic world, the initial membrane was made up of proteinaceous compounds, with the lipids coming in later to provide stability? The proteinoid microspheres could enclose the prebiotic RNA molecules, sheltering them from the ravages of dilution in the ocean. The RNA molecules could do their thing and since microspheres fission by budding, a primitive live form could begin evolving.

So my work in the 70s could still have some relevance today. Nice dream. I’m willing to bet that someone has worked on this idea and there is something wrong with the hypothesis.

BUt I can dream for a while longer.

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