Conversation 11: No. 2

category image Volume: Conversation 11
Issue Number 2
May 2000
ISBN 0-940030-81-0

Bridging the Prebiotic and RNA Worlds: Prebiotic RNA Synthesis on Clay

Progress towards the laboratory demonstration of the steps in the prebiotic origin of the RNA world is reviewed. Montmorillonite clay catalyzes the formation of RNAs containing 6-14 monomer units from the activated mononucleotides of A, C, G, I and U. The RNAs formed have 3', 5'- and 2', 5'-links, pyrophosphate links and have both linear and cyclic chains. The purine oligonucleotides have more 3', 5'- links while the pyrimidine nucleotides have more 2', 5'-linkages. Template-directed synthesis on the heterogeneous oligo(C)s formed on montmorillonite yields the corresponding oligo(G)s. The dimer fraction formed in the reaction of a binary mixture of a purine and pyrimidine nucleotide shows sequence selectivity with about a 20 fold excess of the 5'-purine-pyrimidine dimer over that of the 5'-pyrimidine-purine dimer. RNAs as long as 50 mers are formed by the elongation of a decamer bound to montmorillonite by the daily addition of activated monomer to it over a 14-day time period.

Gözen Ertem
K. Joseph Prabahar
P. C. Joshi and James P. Ferris

Department of Chemistry
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, NY 12180


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