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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2006 Jun;63(11):1278-93.

Re-creating an RNA world.

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  • 1Whitehead Institute, 9 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.


The RNA world hypothesis states that life originated via a system based on RNA genomes and RNA catalysts. Researchers have been trying to develop such a system since catalytic RNAs (ribozymes) were discovered in 1982. This review summarizes the recent progress made in that endeavor and outlines the obstacles that remain to be overcome. After giving a short background on prebiotic chemistry and in vitro evolution, the discussion focuses on the generation of three important components of an RNA world: a sufficient polymerase ribozyme, self-replicating membrane compartments and ribozymes that are capable of performing basic metabolic processes.

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