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Chem Biol. 2013 Feb 21;20(2):241-52. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2013.01.007.

Recycling of informational units leads to selection of replicators in a prebiotic soup.

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Department of Chemistry, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Portland, OR 97207, USA.


Prebiotic chemical reactions would have been greatly aided by a process whereby living materials could have been recycled under conditions of limiting resources. Recombination of RNA fragments is a viable means of recycling but has not been demonstrated. Using systems based on the Azoarcus group I intron ribozyme, computational Monte Carlo studies indicate that a moderate level of recycling activity, spontaneous or catalyzed, leads to the most robust selection scenarios. It is interesting that recycling leads to a threshold effect where a dominant species suddenly jumps to fixation. In conjunction, laboratory studies with the Azoarcus ribozyme corroborate these results, showing that mixtures of scrambled and/or deleteriously mutated molecules can recycle their component fragments to generate fully functional recombinase ribozymes. These studies highlight the importance of recombination and recycling jointly in the advent of living systems.

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