Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

The Origin of the Information System in the RNA/Protein World: A Simulation Model of the Evolution of Translation and the Genetic Code

Version 1 : Received: 6 October 2018 / Approved: 8 October 2018 / Online: 8 October 2018 (05:33:22 CEST)

How to cite: Chatterjee, S.; Yadav, S. The Origin of the Information System in the RNA/Protein World: A Simulation Model of the Evolution of Translation and the Genetic Code. Preprints 2018, 2018100127 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201810.0127.v1). Chatterjee, S.; Yadav, S. The Origin of the Information System in the RNA/Protein World: A Simulation Model of the Evolution of Translation and the Genetic Code. Preprints 2018, 2018100127 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201810.0127.v1).


The Late Heavy Bombardment Period (4.1 to 3.8 billion years ago) of heightened impact cratering activity on young Earth is likely the driving force for the origin of life. During the Eoarchean, asteroids such as carbonaceous chondrites delivered the building blocks of life and water to early Earth. Asteroid collisions created innumerable hydrothermal crater lakes in the Eoarchean crust which inadvertently became the perfect cradle for prebiotic chemistry. These hydrothermal crater lakes were filled with cosmic water and the building blocks of life. forming a thick prebiotic soup. The unique combination of exogenous delivery of extraterrestrial building blocks of life, and the endogenous biosynthesis in hydrothermal impact crater lakes very likely gave rise to life. A new symbiotic model for the origin of life within the hydrothermal crater lakes is here proposed. In this scenario, life arose around four billion years ago through five hierarchical stages of increasing molecular complexity: cosmic, geologic, chemical, information, and biological. During the prebiotic synthesis, membranes first appeared in the hydrothermal crater lakes, followed by the simultaneous origin of RNA and protein molecules, creating the RNA/protein world. These proteins were noncoded protein enzymes that facilitated chemical reactions. RNA molecules formed in the hydrothermal crater basin by polymerization of the nucleotides on the montmorillonite mineral substrate. Similarly, the initial synthesis of abiotic protein enzymes was mediated by the condensation of amino acids on pyrite surfaces. The regular wet-dry cycles within the crater lakes assisted further concentration, condensation, and polymerization of the RNAs and proteins. Lipid membranes randomly encapsulated amino acids, RNA, and protein molecules from the prebiotic soup to initiate a molecular symbiosis inside the protocells, this led to the hierarchical emergence of several cell components. As the role of protein enzymes became essential for catalytic process in the RNA/protein world, Darwinian selection from noncoded to coded protein synthesis led to translation systems and the genetic code, heralding the information stage. In this stage, the biochemical pathways suggest the successive emergence of translation machineries such as tRNAs, aaRS, mRNAs, and of ribosomes for protein synthesis. The molecular attraction between tRNA and amino acid led to the emergence of translation machinery and the genetic code. tRNA is an ancient molecule that created mRNA for the purpose of storing amino acid information like a digital strip. Each mRNA strand became the storage device for genetic information that encoded the amino acid sequences in triplet nucleotides. As information became available in the digital languages of the codon within mRNA, biosynthesis became less random and more organized and directional. The original translation machinery was simpler before the emergence of the ribosome than that of today. We review three main concepts on the origin and evolution of the genetic code: the stereochemical theory, the coevolution theory, and adaptive theory. We believe that these three theories are not mutually exclusive, but are compatible with our coevolution model of translations machines and the genetic code. We suggest biosynthetic pathways as the origin of the translation machine that provided the framework for the origin of the genetic code. During translation, the genetic code developed in three stages coincident with the refinement of the translation machinery: GNC code with four codons and four amino acids during interactions of pre-tRNA/pre-aaRS /pre-mRNA, SNS code consisting of 16 codons and 10 amino acids appeared during the tRNA/aaRS/mRNA interaction, and finally the universal genetic code evolved with the emergence of the tRNA/aaRS/mRNA/ribosome machine. The universal code consists of 64 codons and 20 amino acids, with a redundancy that minimizes errors in translation. To address the question of the origin of the biological information system in the RNA/protein world, we converted letter codons into numerical codons in the Universal Genetic Code Table. We developed a software called CATI (Codon-Amino Acid-Translator-Imitator) to translate randomly chosen numerical codons into corresponding amino acids and vice versa, gaining insight into how translation might have worked in the RNA/protein world. We simulated the likely biochemical pathways for the origin of translation and the genetic code using the Model-View-Controller (MVC) software framework, and the translation machinery step-by-step. We used AnyLogic software to simulate and visualize the evolution of the translation machines and the genetic code. We conclude that the emergence of the information age from the RNA/protein world was a watershed event in the origin of life about four billion years ago.

Subject Areas

hierarchical origin of life; RNA/protein world; biological information system; translation and the genetic code; coevolution of translation machine and the genetic code; MVC architecture pattern and biological information; AnyLogic software for computer simulation of translation machine

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