The biopolymer RNA is thought to have played a central role during the earliest evolutionary stages of life. However, how this macromolecule’s building blocks first formed and then assembled into RNA on an early Earth is an unanswered question that dates back more than 50 years. A paper recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society provides insight into the emergence of this very important biopolymer. Here researchers demonstrated that a slight change in the chemical structure of RNA’s building blocks enables the spontaneous production of monomers in water which then go on to form long ‘gene length' assemblies. These findings demonstrate that the origin of one of the first biopolymers may not be as problematic as previously perceived if we accept that RNA is a product of evolution.

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