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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2019 Mar 13. doi: 10.1111/nyas.14040. [Epub ahead of print]

That is life: communicating RNA networks from viruses and cells in continuous interaction.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of California, Irvine, California.
Telos-Philosophische Praxis, Buermoos, Austria.


All the conserved detailed results of evolution stored in DNA must be read, transcribed, and translated via an RNA-mediated process. This is required for the development and growth of each individual cell. Thus, all known living organisms fundamentally depend on these RNA-mediated processes. In most cases, they are interconnected with other RNAs and their associated protein complexes and function in a strictly coordinated hierarchy of temporal and spatial steps (i.e., an RNA network). Clearly, all cellular life as we know it could not function without these key agents of DNA replication, namely rRNA, tRNA, and mRNA. Thus, any definition of life that lacks RNA functions and their networks misses an essential requirement for RNA agents that inherently regulate and coordinate (communicate to) cells, tissues, organs, and organisms. The precellular evolution of RNAs occurred at the core of the emergence of cellular life and the question remained of how both precellular and cellular levels are interconnected historically and functionally. RNA networks and RNA communication can interconnect these levels. With the reemergence of virology in evolution, it became clear that communicating viruses and subviral infectious genetic parasites are bridging these two levels by invading, integrating, coadapting, exapting, and recombining constituent parts in host genomes for cellular requirements in gene regulation and coordination aims. Therefore, a 21st century understanding of life is of an inherently social process based on communicating RNA networks, in which viruses and cells continuously interact.


RNA networks; cells; communication; disease; genomic parasites; quasispecies; viruses


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