What is it about?

All life on earth can trace its origins back to an ancestral cell population. But our lineage does not stop there. Even the very earliest cells were too complex to arise by a chance mixing of molecules. This means the first cells themselves must have evolved from even simpler self-replicating systems. Here we support the view that these very fist ancestral replicators were actually two-component systems consisting of a short strand of nucleic acid and a short peptide. The nucleic acid encodes and synthesizes the peptide and the peptide copies the nucleic acid. Together they make a complete self-replicating system capable of evolving.

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Why is it important?

Understanding how life began may help us understand more completely life as it is now. It also provides potentially valuable insights for understanding how life may arise on other planets.


It was fun to work together with a theoretician on this work. Mathematical techniques can be very powerful in helping guide biological theories.

Professor Jonathan Gardiner Heddle
Jagiellonian University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A Peptide–Nucleic Acid Replicator Origin for Life, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, March 2020, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2020.01.001.
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