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Medicina (Buenos Aires)

versión impresa ISSN 0025-7680versión On-line ISSN 1669-9106


SZOSTAK, Jack W. On the origin of life. Medicina (B. Aires) [online]. 2016, vol.76, n.4, pp.199-203. ISSN 0025-7680.

The origin of life is a very rich field, filled with possibilities and ripe for discovery. RNA replication requires chemical energy and vesicle division is easy to do with mechanical energy. These requirements point to a surface lake, perhaps at some time following the period of concentrated cyanide chemistry that gave rise to nucleotides, amino acids and (maybe) fatty acids. A second requirement follows specifically from the nature of the RNA replication cycle, which requires generally cool to moderate temperatures for the copying chemistry, punctuated by brief periods of high temperature for strand separation. Remarkably, lakes in a geothermal active area provide just such a fluctuating temperature environment, because lakes similar to Yellowstone can be generally cool (even ice covered in winter), but they contain numerous hydrothermal vents that emit streams of hot water. Protocells in such an environment would occasionally be swept into these hot water streams, where the transient high temperature exposure would cause RNA strand separation. However, the protocells would be quickly mixed with surrounding cold water, and would therefore cool quickly, before their delicate RNA molecules could be destroyed by heat. Because of the combination of favorable chemical and physical environments, this could be the most likely scenario for the early Earth environment that nurtured the origin of life.

Palabras clave : RNA replication cycle; Protocells; Ribozymes; Geothermal activity; Concentrated cyanide.

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