The RNA World: From Prebiotic Chemistry to the Emergence of Complexity (#449)

Many theories regarding the chemical origins of life rely, explicitly or implicitly, on the validity of the RNA World hypothesis. This hypothesis posits that life once relied upon RNA for the storage of genetic information and control of chemical catalysis, before the advent of DNA and protein enzymes. A major challenge to the RNA World hypothesis is the difficulty of forming RNA by non-enzymatic, plausible prebiotic reactions. Additionally, it is not obvious how RNA polymers would have made the transition from abiotic polymers to a nascent biological system. In this symposium we will discuss topics ranging from the abiotic formation of RNA, or its ancestral polymer (pre-RNA), to the evolutionary events that resulted in the emergence of a complex chemical system that became RNA-based life. Our overall objective is to discuss the current status and compatibility of models for different stages of the RNA, and to critically assess the relatively likelihood of competing theories for the origin and evolution of RNA. Content: Prebiotic synthesis of nucleobases and ribose; Prebiotic phosphorylation; Prebiotic nucleoside formation; Prebiotic polymerization of nucleotides; Ribozymes and in vitro selection; Autocatalytic systems with RNA; Small molecule ribozyme chemistry and RNA cofactors; Early cooperation of biopolymers; Emergence of the ribosome.
Last update: Dec 28, 2015