Seven origins of life

CARY O'DONNELL ODONNELL at arcb.afrc.ac.uk
Thu Aug 22 05:32:00 EST 1991


> To: molecular-evolution at net.bio.genbank
> Subject: Seven Clues to the Origin of Life
>
> I've  recently read A.G. Cairns-Smith book "Seven Clues to the Origin of
 Life",
> which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the subject.  One of
> his ideas is that the existence of polymers of nucleic and amino acids in
> all living systems today is like the existence of an arch of stones that
> was once constructed with a scaffolding that has long since disappeared.
> He further suggests that we should seek a possible "scaffolding" for
> DNA/RNA/proteins rather than remain convinced that the first evolving
> entities were necessarily composed of nucleic and amino acids.

 Have you read Freeman Dyson  "The Origins of Life"? He suggests we have
 all been too concerned with replication, suggesting we look at the origins
 of metabolism. This would even fit the scaffolding idea.

>
> I don't know whether I buy his suggestion that the "scaffolding" was some form
> of inorganic crystal, but I'm intrigued in the general idea.  I'm somewhat
> naive on the subject, and I'm curious if anyone is aware of results or
> research into other candidates for such a scaffolding.  In other words, does
> anyone attempt to arrive at self-replicating molecules that are not composed
> of nucleic (or amino) acids?

   Dyson suggests this is not the question at all, but rather how did stable
   metabolic systems arise that subsequently allowed self-replicating DNA to
   take them over. He takes a mathematical model, but an easily-understood
   one.
>
> Robert B. Russell
> Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics
> Oxford
> rbr at uk.ac.oxford.biochemistry

  The main drawback is that Dyson is a theoretical physicist trying to
  repeat (by his own admission) an earlier famous physicist's suggestion
  (I forget his name) that biologists get on with molecular work.

Cary O'Donnell
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