Preprint Hypothesis Version 9 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

The ATP Hypothesis Discovers the Missing “Matchmaker” between Proteins and Nucleic Acids

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:

Journal reference: The Innovation 2021, 2
DOI: 10.1016/j.xinn.2021.100120


A plenty of theories on the origin of genetic codes have been proposed so far, yet all ignored the energetic driving force, its relation to the biochemical system, and most importantly, the missing “matchmaker” between proteins and nucleic acids. Here, a new hypothesis is proposed, according to which ATP is at the origin of the primordial genetic code by driving the coevolution of the genetic code with the pristine biochemical system. This hypothesis aims to show how the genetic code was produced e.g. by photochemical reactions in a protocell that derived from a lipid vesicle 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. ATP could energetically form and elongate chains of both polynucleotides and polypeptides, thus acting a “matchmaker” between these two bio-polymers and eventually mediating precellular biochemical innovation 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 a photosynthesis system to produce ATP efficiently and regularly with the aids of proteins and RNA/DNA. The completion of permanently recording the genetic information by DNA marked the dawn of cellular life operated by Darwinian evolution. The ATP hypothesis assumes or supports the photochemical origin of life, shedding light on the origins of both photosynthetic and biochemical systems, which remains largely unknown thus far. Based on ATP hypothesis, virus (like the new coronavirus) could not be the earliest life on Earth, as it has neither biochemical systems nor lipid bilayer membrane that provided relatively isolated environment for the development of protobiochemical reactions, although it owns the genetic code of a cellular life. Virus could not be a bridge between life and non-life, but is an anti-life substance, as it depletes cellular material for its own replication, and then spreads by destroying the host cells. It can be imagined that if cellular life are completely wiped out by the virus, the complete destruction of life on Earth would be inevitable.


ATP hypothesis; origin of genetic code; life’s building block; probiotic “soup”; coevolution; biochemical system; missing “matchmaker”; energy transformation; informatization; structuralization; precellular selection; photo- chemical origin of life; virus; anti-life form; 2019-nCoV


LIFE SCIENCES, Molecular Biology

Comments (1)

Comment 1
Received: 11 September 2020
Commenter: Ping Xie
Commenter's Conflict of Interests: Author
Comment: In this version, I mainly added three new figures:
1) Figure 2 shows the molecule structure of ATP. This molecule plays an important role in the energy transformation of a biochemical system, as it looks like a battery that can be discharged and recharged repeatedly.
2) Figure 4. Was cytochrome imprinted with photosynthesis?
3) Figure 6. Co-development of the genetic code and several key features of the material world on Earth.

I also extended both abstract and text.
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