Scientists make enzyme that could help explain origins of life

Mimicking natural evolution in a test tube, scientists have devised an enzyme with a unique property that might have been crucial to the origin of life on Earth.

Aside from illuminating one possible path for life’s beginnings, the achievement is likely to yield a powerful tool for evolving new and useful molecules.

The new enzyme is called a ribozyme because it is made from ribonucleic acid (RNA). Modern DNA-based life forms appear to have evolved from a simpler “RNA world,” and many scientists suspect that RNA molecules with enzymatic properties were Earth’s first self-replicators.

The new ribozyme works essentially in that way. It helps knit together a “copy” strand of RNA, using an original RNA strand as a reference or “template.” However, it doesn’t make a copy of a molecule completely identical to itself. Instead it makes a copy of a mirror image of itself — like the left hand to its right — and, in turn, that “left-hand” ribozyme can help make copies of the original.

No one has ever made such “cross-chiral” enzymes before. The emergence of such enzymes in a primordial RNA world — which the new study shows was plausible — could have overcome a key obstacle to the origin of life.
Biology on Earth evolved in such a way that in each class of molecules, one chirality, or handedness, came to predominate. Virtually all RNA, for example, are right-handed and called D-RNA. That structural sameness makes interactions within that class more efficient — just as a handshake is more efficient when it joins two right or two left hands, rather than a left and a right.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141029141216.htm

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3 thoughts on “Scientists make enzyme that could help explain origins of life

  1. It just occurred to me that this is exactly the kind of discovery that will not happen if the anti-Common Core idiots get their way.

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