Did DNA Exist Before Life Began on Earth? New Study Suggests “Yes”

For those who follow DNA out of a genealogical interest and who enjoy science articles, then this article may interest you:

Scientists are close to demonstrating that the building blocks of DNA can form spontaneously from chemicals thought to be present on the early Earth. If they succeed, their research implies that DNA could have predated the birth of life. “The story makes more sense if DNA nucleotides were naturally present in the environment. Organisms could have taken up and used them, later developing the tools to make their own DNA once it became clear how advantageous the molecule was— and once natural supplies began to run low,” Christopher Switzer of the University of California, Riverside said.

DNA is essential to almost all life on Earth, yet most biologists think that life began with RNA. Just like DNA, it stores genetic information. What’s more, RNA can fold into complex shapes that can clamp onto other molecules and speed up chemical reactions, just like a protein, and it is structurally simpler than DNA, so might be easier to make. Conventional wisdom is that RNA-based life eventually switched to DNA because DNA is better at storing information. In other words, RNA organisms made the first DNA.

In 2009 researchers finally managed to generate RNA (image below) using chemicals that they believe existed on the early Earth. Matthew Powner, at University College London, and his colleagues synthesised two of the four nucleotides that make up RNA. Their achievement suggested that RNA may have formed spontaneously – powerful support for the idea that life began in an “RNA world”.



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