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Simpler times: Did an earlier genetic molecule predate DNA and RNA?
Date:1/9/2012

uences obtained were 70 nucleotides in length, long enough Chaput says, to permit them to fold into shapes with defined binding sites. The DNA-TNA hybrids were then incubated with the target molecule thrombin. Sequences that bound with the target were recovered and amplified through PCR. The DNA portion was removed and used as a template for further amplification, while the TNA molecules displaying high-affinity, high specificity binding properties were retained.

Additionally, the binding affinity of the evolved and selected TNA molecules was tested against two other common proteins, for which they displayed no affinity, strengthening the case that a highly specific binding molecule had resulted from the group's directed evolution procedure.

Chaput suggests that issues concerning the prebiotic synthesis of ribose sugars and the non-enzymatic replication of RNA may provide circumstantial evidence of an earlier genetic system more readily produced under primitive earth conditions. Although solid proof that TNA acted as an RNA precursor in the prebiotic world may be tricky to obtain, Chaput points to the allure of this molecule as a strong candidate, capable of storing information, undergoing selection processes and folding into tertiary structures that can perform complex functions. This result provides the motivation to explore TNA as an early genetic system.

Chaput is optimistic that major questions about the prebiotic synthesis of TNA, its role in the origin and early evolution of life on earth, and eventual genetic takeover by RNA will, over time, be answered.


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Contact: Joseph Caspermeyer
Joseph.Caspermeyer@asu.edu
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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