Replication and kinetic trapping of nucleic acids in alternative environments

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Lozoya Colinas, Adriana
Hud, Nicholas V.
Grover, Martha A.
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Many hypotheses in origins of life research state that informational polymers likely appeared before coded protein enzymes, which could have had a specific catalytic function. Replication of these polymers is a process essential for life to exist. However, a robust prebiotic replication system has not yet been demonstrated. We propose the use of alternative solvents such as glycholine and UAcW (urea, acetamide and water) as a way to circumvent some of the challenges associated with replication of DNA and RNA duplexes under model prebiotic conditions. The challenges addressed in this work include the strand inhibition problem (preference of template strands to reanneal before oligomer substrate can bind to them), the replicator-catalyst paradox (structured sequences needed for activity don’t serve as good templates), and sustained replication cycles. First, kinetic trapping of functional sequences was demonstrated in glycholine. By controlling environmental conditions, such as water content and cooling rates, the system can be driven towards trapping of the single strands or formation of the duplexes. Second, a full replication round of a long RNA template containing a ribozyme was demonstrated in the same solvent. Lastly, multiple rounds of replication of DNA and RNA were promoted through wet-dry cycles in a prebiotic solvent composed of urea, acetamide and water.
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