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      Toy trains, loaded dice and the origin of life: dimerization on mineral surfaces under periodic drive with Gaussian inputs


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          In a major extension of previous work, we model the putative hydrothermal rock pore setting for the origin of life on Earth as a series of coupled continuous flow units (the toy train). Perfusing through this train are reactants that set up thermochemical and pH oscillations, and an activated nucleotide that produces monomer and dimer monophosphates. The dynamical equations that model this system are thermally self-consistent. In an innovative step that breaks some new ground, we build stochasticity of the inputs into the model. The computational results infer various constraints and conditions on, and insights into, chemical evolution and the origin of life and its physical setting: long, interconnected porous structures with longitudinal non-uniformity would have been favourable, and the ubiquitous pH dependences of biology may have been established in the prebiotic era. We demonstrate the important role of Gaussian fluctuations of the inputs in driving polymerization, evolution and diversification. In particular, we find that the probability distribution of the resulting output fluctuations is left-skewed and right-weighted (the loaded dice), which could favour chemical evolution towards a living RNA world. We tentatively name this distribution ‘Goldilocks’. These results also vindicate the general approach of constructing and running a simple model to learn important new information about a complex system.

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          The RNA World: molecular cooperation at the origins of life.

          The RNA World concept posits that there was a period of time in primitive Earth's history - about 4 billion years ago - when the primary living substance was RNA or something chemically similar. In the past 50 years, this idea has gone from speculation to a prevailing idea. In this Review, we summarize the key logic behind the RNA World and describe some of the most important recent advances that have been made to support and expand this logic. We also discuss the ways in which molecular cooperation involving RNAs would facilitate the emergence and early evolution of life. The immediate future of RNA World research should be a very dynamic one.
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            The emergence of life from iron monosulphide bubbles at a submarine hydrothermal redox and pH front

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              Synthesis of long prebiotic oligomers on mineral surfaces.

              Most theories of the origin of biological organization assume that polymers with lengths in the range of 30-60 monomers are needed to make a genetic system viable. But it has not proved possible to synthesize plausibly prebiotic polymers this long by condensation in aqueous solution, because hydrolysis competes with polymerization. The potential of mineral surfaces to facilitate prebiotic polymerization was pointed out long ago. Here we describe a system that models prebiotic polymerization by the oligomerization of activated monomers--both nucleotides and amino acids. We find that whereas the reactions in solution produce only short oligomers (the longest typically being a 10-mer), the presence of mineral surfaces (montmorillonite for nucleotides, illite and hydroxylapatite for amino acids) induces the formation of oligomers up to 55 monomers long. These are formed by successive 'feedings' with the monomers; polymerization takes place on the mineral surfaces in a manner akin to solid-phase synthesis of biopolymers.

                Author and article information

                R Soc Open Sci
                R Soc Open Sci
                Royal Society Open Science
                The Royal Society Publishing
                November 2017
                8 November 2017
                8 November 2017
                : 4
                : 11
                : 170141
                [1 ]Mathematical Sciences Institute and Research School of Chemistry, The Australian National University , Canberra 2602, Australia
                [2 ]School of Mathematics, University of Leeds , Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
                Author notes
                Author for correspondence: Rowena Ball e-mail: rowena.ball@ 123456anu.edu.au

                This article has been edited by the Royal Society of Chemistry, including the commissioning, peer review process and editorial aspects up to the point of acceptance.

                Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3911890.

                Author information
                © 2017 The Authors.

                Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

                : 14 February 2017
                : 4 October 2017
                Research Article
                Custom metadata
                November, 2017

                origin of life,chemical evolution,thermochemical and ph oscillator,stochastic dynamical model,left-skewed right-weighted probability distribution


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