Circular RNA (circRNA) was an important bridge in the switch from the RNA world to the DNA world


Gerald Soslau



• The formation of membrane pores for transport in a primordial cell composed of ribonucleopeptides.
• tRNA non-coding and coding peptide synthesis built upon prior papers and the addition of new potential pathways for non-coding peptide synthesis and maturation of tRNAs.
• Role of circular RNAs in the RNA world, their role in gene regulation in the primordial cell and their role in the transition to the DNA world.



The concept that life on Earth began as an RNA world has been built upon extensive experimentation demonstrating that many of the building blocks required for living cells could be synthesized in the laboratory under conditions approximating our primordial world. Many of the building blocks for life have also been found in meteorites indicating that meteors may have been a source for these molecules, or more likely, that they represent the chemical library present in most/all bodies in the universe after the big bang. Perhaps the most important support for the concept comes from the fact that some RNA species possess catalytic activity, ribozymes, and that RNA could be reverse transcribe to DNA. The thrust of numerous papers on this topic has been to explore how the available molecules on Earth, at its birth, gave rise to life as we know it today. This paper focuses more on a reverse view of the topic. The “how” molecular building blocks were synthesized is not addressed nor how the “first” RNA molecules were synthesized. We can clearly speculate on the variable environmental conditions and chemistry available on Earth billions of years ago. However, we can never truly replicate the changing conditions or know the chemical composition of Earth at the beginning of time. We can, however, confirm that over millions, perhaps billions of years the basic building blocks for life accumulated sufficiently to initiate evolution to an RNA world followed by our RNA/DNA world. Here we are attempting to take the information from our current knowledge of biology and by inference and extrapolation work backward to hypothesize biological events in the march forward from RNA to DNA. It is proposed that the primordial replicating RNA cell, the ribocyte, evolved from liposomes encompassing required reactants and products for “life” and that ribonucleopeptide complexes formed membrane pores to support bidirectional ion and molecular transport to maintain biological functions and osmolarity. Circular RNA, circRNA, is proposed as a critical stable RNA molecule that served as the genetic precursor for the switch to DNA and the replication of circRNA by a rolling circle mechanism gave rise to the RNA complexity required for the genetic functions of the cell. The replicating ribocyte would have required protein synthesis as well as RNA replication and a model for non-coded and primordial coded protein synthesis is proposed. Finally, the switch from the RNA to the DNA world would have involved the synthesis of an RNA:DNA hybrid prior to the formation of dsDNA. If the hybrid was a circular molecule that ultimately yielded a circular dsDNA molecule, it could predict that the primordial DNA cell would evolve into a bacterial cell with a single circular chromosome. One would hope that continued speculation of the origin of life will spur new directions of research that may never fully answer the questions of the past but add to our ability to regulate potentially harmful biological events in the present and in the future.


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