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The origins of life - The 'protein interaction world' hypothesis: Protein interactions were the first form of self-reproducing life and nucleic acids evolved later as memory molecules

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Peter Andras


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The 'protein interaction world' (PIW) hypothesis of the origins of life assumes that life emerged as a self-reproducing and expanding system of protein interactions. In mainstream molecular biology, 'replication' refers to the material copying of molecules such as nucleic acids. However, PIW is conceptualized as an abstract communication system constituted by the interactions between proteins, in which 'replication' happens at the level of self-reproduction of these interactions between proteins. Densely concentrated peptide interaction systems may have reproduced and expanded as 'protocell' vesicles surrounded by lipid bi-layer membranes. Protocells led to the emergence of proto-RNA molecules of greater chemical stability which served as chemically differentiated 'memories' of peptide interaction states, thereby facilitating the reproduction and expansion of protocells. Simplification-driven expansion led to the selection of biotic amino acids and the reduction of the typical RNA alphabet to the four usual bases (A, C, G and U). Dense interactions between RNA molecules led to the emergence of the RNA interaction subsystem of the cell, and to the emergence of 'memories' of RNA interactions in the form of DNA molecules with greater chemical stability. The expansion of DNA molecule interactions led to the dense clustering and encapsulation of DNA molecules within the cell nucleus. RNA molecules therefore serve as memories of protein interactions and DNA molecules are memories of RNA interactions. We believe that the PIW hypothesis is more evolutionarily plausible than the mainstream RNA world hypothesis, and has greater explanatory power. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Andras P, Andras C

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Medical Hypotheses

Year: 2005

Volume: 64

Issue: 4

Pages: 678-688

ISSN (print): 0306-9877

ISSN (electronic): 1532-2777


DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2004.11.029

PubMed id: 15694682