RNA world

Shotaro Ayukawa*, Toshihiko Enomoto, Daisuke Kiga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


In the RNA world, which is a hypothetical idea to explain the origin of life, RNA molecules were considered to have roles in both information storage and as a catalyst. This chapter reviews RNA world studies from its birth to recent advancements. Natural ribozymes and coenzymes containing nucleotide moieties support the hypothesis. For maintenance and evolution of the RNA world, ribozymes that have self-replicating activity had to emerge. Although such a ribozyme has not been discovered in the natural world, in vitro evolution experiments have created ribozymes that have replicative ability, essentially. After the emergence of the replicative ribozyme, ribozymes might have gradually improved its activity by incorporating other biomolecules especially peptides, which could be synthesized spontaneously in the prebiotic world. The RNA-protein (RNP) world may have emerged through the interaction between the RNA world and peptide/protein world. Proteins with higher enzymatic activities could have appeared through Darwinian evolution in the RNP world, and the peptide/protein must have replaced the role of ribozymes as catalysts. Further interactions with other molecular worlds such as the lipid or metabolic worlds accelerated the evolution of the self-replicating system. Finally, DNA, which is chemically more stable than RNA, has taken over the role as the storage of genetic information.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAstrobiology
Subtitle of host publicationFrom the Origins of Life to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9789811336393
ISBN (Print)9789811336386
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jan 1


  • In vitro evolution
  • Peptide
  • Ribozyme
  • RNA
  • Self-replication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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