Poster Presentation Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution Conference 2016

The Origin of Life; solvable problems.   (#326)

David Penny 1
  1. Massey University, Palmerston North, MANAWATUE, New Zealand

The Origin of Life was not originally considered a problem before about 1690; now it is considered a major (and difficult) issue. There are very many components to the question, but some can be addressed as relatively straightforward issues. One of these could be the temperatures at which the origin of life arose. Perhaps the favoured temperature is ‘black smokers’ at the bottom of the ocean (which might be at high temperatures). However, the standard equation for Gibbs Free Energy is DG = DH -TDS, where DG is thought to be the controlling factor, and DH might be a kinetic component, and DS the entropy (order) component. This equation could be interpreted as favouring a much lower temperature origin because of the high cost of temperature as the entropy increases. Certainly, folding of RNA is favoured at lower temperatures. Another question might be the numbers of nucleotides – this can be expressed as ‘why 4’? Does having only 2 nucleotides fold too many ways for a given sequence? And ‘Black membranes’ form spontaneously, and it would be an interesting question to measure the temperatures at which simpler molecules form. The length of the amino acid code is a triplet. Why three? Possibly adding three nucleotides at a time might lead to improved accuracy – and thus to an increase in the ‘Eigen limit’ of the length of the RNA being coded for. Thus the potential ways of folding, membrane formation, and measurements of accuracy of replication are all important. The main issue is that they are all subject to experimental testing!