The way forward for the origin of life: prions and prion-like molecules first hypothesis

Jheeta, Sohan, Chatzitheodoridis, Elias, Devine, Kevin G. and Block, Janice (2021) The way forward for the origin of life: prions and prion-like molecules first hypothesis. Life, 11 (9). pp. 1-17. ISSN 2075-1729

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Abstract / Description

In this paper the hypothesis that prions and prion-like molecules could have initiated the chemical evolutionary process which led to the eventual emergence of life is reappraised. The prions first hypothesis is a specific application of the protein-first hypothesis which asserts that protein-based chemical evolution preceded the evolution of genetic encoding processes. This genetics-first hypothesis asserts that an “RNA-world era” came before protein-based chemical evolution and rests on a singular premise that molecules such as RNA, acetyl-CoA, and NAD are relics of a long line of chemical evolutionary processes preceding the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA). Nevertheless, we assert that prions and prion-like molecules may also be relics of chemical evolutionary processes preceding LUCA. To support this assertion is the observation that prions and prion-like molecules are involved in a plethora of activities in contemporary biology in both complex (eukaryotes) and primitive life forms. Furthermore, a literature survey reveals that small RNA virus genomes harbor information about prions (and amyloids). If, as has been presumed by proponents of the genetics-first hypotheses, small viruses were present during an RNA world era and were involved in some of the earliest evolutionary processes, this places prions and prion-like molecules potentially at the heart of the chemical evolutionary process whose eventual outcome was life. We deliberate on the case for prions and prion-like molecules as the frontier molecules at the dawn of evolution of living systems.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: ** From MDPI via Jisc Publications Router
Uncontrolled Keywords: prions; amyloids; origin of life; LUCA; RNA; RNA viruses; chemical relics
Subjects: 500 Natural Sciences and Mathematics > 570 Life sciences; biology
Department: School of Human Sciences
SWORD Depositor: Pub Router
Depositing User: Pub Router
Date Deposited: 01 Sep 2021 15:08
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2021 15:08


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