Organisms today employ multiple enzymes, proteins and RNA, to catalyze biochemical reactions that are essential for life. According to the RNA world model, DNA and proteins were absent when life originated. Life began with RNA, which passed on genetic information and catalyzed biochemical reactions.

In order for RNA to pass on genetic information, it must be able to copy itself and produce a complementary sequence of RNA. A few months ago, we covered a RNA enzyme that can replicate RNA sequences that are long enough to have biochemical functions.

In a recent issue of Nature Chemistry, chemists propose an explanation for the step between the formation of random, short RNA sequences and that of relatively large, catalytically active RNA enzymes. They propose that RNA replication is possible without the presence of any enzymes at all. Instead, it's possible to perform surface-assisted copying of immobilized RNA.

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