Preprint Hypothesis Version 5 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

The ATP Hypothesis: A New Conceptual Framework for the Origin of the Genetic Code

Version 1 : Received: 28 March 2020 / Approved: 29 March 2020 / Online: 29 March 2020 (04:08:22 CEST)
Version 2 : Received: 1 April 2020 / Approved: 2 April 2020 / Online: 2 April 2020 (05:16:09 CEST)
Version 3 : Received: 17 April 2020 / Approved: 19 April 2020 / Online: 19 April 2020 (04:00:24 CEST)
Version 4 : Received: 11 July 2020 / Approved: 12 July 2020 / Online: 12 July 2020 (14:28:35 CEST)
Version 5 : Received: 26 July 2020 / Approved: 26 July 2020 / Online: 26 July 2020 (17:40:23 CEST)
Version 6 : Received: 6 August 2020 / Approved: 7 August 2020 / Online: 7 August 2020 (06:53:34 CEST)
Version 7 : Received: 16 August 2020 / Approved: 20 August 2020 / Online: 20 August 2020 (08:54:53 CEST)
Version 8 : Received: 30 August 2020 / Approved: 31 August 2020 / Online: 31 August 2020 (08:05:13 CEST)
Version 9 : Received: 9 September 2020 / Approved: 11 September 2020 / Online: 11 September 2020 (08:39:39 CEST)
Version 10 : Received: 28 January 2021 / Approved: 29 January 2021 / Online: 29 January 2021 (15:26:13 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Xie P. 2021. Who is the missing “matchmaker” between proteins and nucleic acids?, The Innovation 2(3), 100120 (DOI: Xie P. 2021. Who is the missing “matchmaker” between proteins and nucleic acids?, The Innovation 2(3), 100120 (DOI:


A plenty of theories on the origin of genetic codes have been proposed so far, yet all ignored its energetic relation to the biochemical system. Here, a new hypothesis is proposed, according to which ATP is at the origin of the primordial genetic code by its coevolution with the pristine biochemical system. This hypothesis aims to show how the genetic code was produced by photochemical reactions in a protocell that derived from a lipid vescile enclosing various life’s building blocks (e.g. nucleotides and peptides) . At extant cell, ATP is the only energetic product of photosynthesis, and is at the energetic heart of the biochemical systems. In the prelife vescile, ATP energetically elongated chains of both polynucleotides and polypeptides, thus providing a bridge between these molecules and eventually mediating biochemical innovation in the protocell from energy transformation to informatization. ATP was not the only one that could drive the formation of polynucleotides and polypeptides, but favored by precellular selection. The protocell innovated the photosynthesis system to produce ATP, which later has been processed efficiently and regularly with the aids of proteins and RNA/DNA. The completion of the genetic code from RNA to DNA marked the dawn of cellular life operated by Darwinian evolution. The ATP hypothesis supports the photochemical origin of life, shedding light on the formation of both photosynthetic and biochemical systems, which remains largely unknown thus far.


the ATP hypothesis; the origin of the genetic code; life’s building block; probiotic “soup”; coevolution; biochemical system; energy transformation; informatization; structuralization; precellular selection; photochemical origin of life


Biology and Life Sciences, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Comments (1)

Comment 1
Received: 26 July 2020
Commenter: Ping Xie
Commenter's Conflict of Interests: Author
Comment: 1) In this version, I made significant modifications of Figure 1 and abstract;
2) Revisions are also made throught the text to emphasize the importance of the hypothesis;
3) A new reference is added.
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