RNA World theory
Breaker, Ronald R. Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology; and Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Last reviewed:March 2018
- Biochemistry and genetics of life
- Support for the RNA World theory
- Emergence of RNA life-forms
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A theory expressing the idea that life on Earth passed through an era when biological processes were carried out predominantly by ribonucleic acids, without the involvement of deoxyribonucleic acids or proteins. The RNA World theory (or hypothesis) states that early forms of life may have relied solely on ribonucleic acids (RNAs) to store genetic information and to promote chemical reactions. These two functions—information storage and chemical catalysis—are essential for a “living” chemical system to self-replicate and could have formed the foundation for the earliest living entities on Earth. For life to reproduce successfully and persist through time, genetic information stored in the form of chemicals by a parent entity must be replicated and passed to its offspring. Moreover, this genetic information may accrue occasional mutations that allow some offspring to adapt to new or changing environments. Any molecule that permits the facile storage and replication of information has the potential to serve as genetic material. Also, any molecule that can promote chemical reactions efficiently to support the replication of genetic information has the potential to serve as a biological catalyst (Fig. 1). See also: Biochemistry; Catalysis and catalysts; Genetics; Mutation; Nucleic acid; Nucleotide; Ribonucleic acid (RNA)
The content above is only an excerpt.
for your institution. Subscribe
To learn more about subscribing to AccessScience, or to request a no-risk trial of this award-winning scientific reference for your institution, fill in your information and a member of our Sales Team will contact you as soon as possible.
to your librarian. Recommend
Let your librarian know about the award-winning gateway to the most trustworthy and accurate scientific information.
AccessScience provides the most accurate and trustworthy scientific information available.
Recognized as an award-winning gateway to scientific knowledge, AccessScience is an amazing online resource that contains high-quality reference material written specifically for students. Contributors include more than 9000 highly qualified scientists and 43 Nobel Prize winners.
MORE THAN 8700 articles covering all major scientific disciplines and encompassing the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology and McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science & Technology
115,000-PLUS definitions from the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms
3000 biographies of notable scientific figures
MORE THAN 19,000 downloadable images and animations illustrating key topics
ENGAGING VIDEOS highlighting the life and work of award-winning scientists
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY and additional readings to guide students to deeper understanding and research
LINKS TO CITABLE LITERATURE help students expand their knowledge using primary sources of information