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A new recipe for primordial soup on the pre-biotic earth may help answer questions about the origins of life

Posted April 10, 2014

IN THE beginning, there were no living cells and no proteins in the primordial soup on the pre-biotic earth. The ‘RNA World’ hypothesis holds that cell-free RNA communities grew in rock pores around hydrothermal vents and replicated and evolved, before the evolution of DNA and cell membranes.

But cell-free RNA replication requires thermal cycling – heating to separate the base-paired double strands and a cooling phase to replicate and anneal complementary strands into newly replicated duplexes. This fact seems to have been completely overlooked in most hypotheses about the origin of life.

We proposed and tested the hypothesis that thermal cycling to drive cell-free RNA replication and amplification in this environment may have been provided by a natural hydrogen peroxide thermochemical oscillator. This also provides a mechanism for natural selection and evolution.

There is strong evidence that hydrogen peroxide was present in substantial concentrations on the pre-biotic earth. Hydrogen peroxide is believed also to occur abundantly on Jupiter’s moon Europa, and formerly on Mars, which suggests that these planetary bodies may have evolved their own RNA worlds!

Results also may answer the (previously unanswerable) question of why new life does not emerge from non-living precursors on the modern earth: Quite simply there are no longer the amounts of hydrogen peroxide around that were there in the good old days!

Story source (bibliographic citation)
Rowena Ball, John Brindley (2014). Hydrogen peroxide thermochemical oscillator as driver for primordial RNA replication. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 11: 20131052.

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