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What came first in the origin of life? A study contradicts the 'metabolism first' hypothesis
Date:1/8/2010

A research published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences rejects the theory that the origin of life stems from a system of self-catalytic molecules capable of experiencing Darwinian evolution without the need of RNA or DNA and their replication. The research, which was carried out with the participation of Mauro Santos, researcher of the Department of Genetics and Microbiology at Universitat Autnoma de Barcelona (UAB), has demonstrated that, through the analysis of what some researchers name "compound genomes", these chemical networks cannot be considered evolutionary units because they lose properties which are essential for evolution when they reach a critical size and greater level of complexity.

The North American Space Agency (NASA) defines life as a "self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution". The scientific theories on the origin of life revolve around two main ideas: one focuses on genetics - with RNA or DNA replication as an essential condition for Darwinian evolution to take place - and the other focuses on metabolism. It is clear that both situations must have begun with simple organic molecules formed by prebiotic processes, as was demonstrated by the Miller-Urey experiment (in which organic molecules were created from inorganic substances). The point in which these two theories differ is that the replication of RNA or DNA molecules is a far too complex process which requires a correct combination of monomers within the polymers to produce a molecular chain resulting from the replication.

Until now no plausible chemical explanation exists for how these processes occured. In addition, defenders of the second theory argue that the processes needed for evolution to take place depend on primordial metabolism. This metabolism is believed to be a type of chemical network entailing a high degree of mutual catalysis between its components which, in turn, eventually allows for adaptation and evolution
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Contact: Maria Jesus Delgado
MariaJesus.Delgado@uab.cat
34-935-814-049
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
Source:Eurekalert

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