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J Mol Evol. 1995 Dec;41(6):712-6.

On the origin and evolution of the genetic code.

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Departmento de Bioquímica, Biología Molecular y Genética, Universidad de Extremadura, Badajoz, Spain.


Two ideas have essentially been used to explain the origin of the genetic code: Crick's frozen accident and Woese's amino acid-codon specific chemical interaction. Whatever the origin and codon-amino acid correlation, it is difficult to imagine the sudden appearance of the genetic code in its present form of 64 codons coding for 20 amino acids without appealing to some evolutionary process. On the contrary, it is more reasonable to assume that it evolved from a much simpler initial state in which a few triplets were coding for each of a small number of amino acids. Analysis of genetic code through information theory and the metabolism of pyrimidine biosynthesis provide evidence that suggests that the genetic code could have begun in an RNA world with the two letters A and U grouped in eight triplets coding for seven amino acids and one stop signal. This code could have progressively evolved by making gradual use of letters G and C to end with 64 triplets coding for 20 amino acids and three stop signals. According to proposed evidence, DNA could have appeared after the four-letter structure was already achieved. In the newborn DNA world, T substituted U to get higher physicochemical and genetic stability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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