PCR in the primordial soup

rybicki at uctvax.uct.ac.za rybicki at uctvax.uct.ac.za
Fri Aug 7 04:53:35 EST 1992

In article <1992Aug5.194758.10915 at news2.cis.umn.edu>, horton at molbio.cbs.umn.edu (Robert Horton) writes:
> If viruses are "organisms" because they can pass on genetic information etc.,
> how about PCR products ("amplicons")? 

How about are babies organisms...they are even more dependent on outside help 
for survival than PCR fragments!

> Hypothesis to ponder: if amplicons are
> the simplest "organism" today, could they be similar to the prototypical
> nucleic-acid based organisms ("PCR in the primordial soup"-ala Old Faithful)

In a word, no - they possess none of the attributes those molecules must have
had for self-replication (such as specific sequences, structures).  However,
they make pretty good parasites, in that they inflict a metabolic drain on
their hosts, multiply to very high numbers, evolve quickly, and are dispersed
efficiently (how soon after a successful first PCR do you start to amplify DNA
up out of water?).  So - I guess they could be organisms, given that the
natural world has evolved a system that supports their essentially selfish

As for a name - how about PCRions?  I like it...!

|                                 |                                       |
|  Ed Rybicki                     |    Now you've got the hang of it      |
|  Dept Microbiology              | There's nothing you can't do with it  |
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