The dawn of the RNA World: toward functional complexity through ligation of random RNA oligomers

Carlos Briones, Michael Stich, Susanna C. Manrubia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A main unsolved problem in the RNA World scenario for the origin of life is how a template-dependent RNA polymerase ribozyme emerged from short RNA oligomers obtained by random polymerization on mineral surfaces. A number of computational studies have shown that the structural repertoire yielded by that process is dominated by topologically simple structures, notably hairpin-like ones. A fraction of these could display RNA ligase activity and catalyze the assembly of larger, eventually functional RNA molecules retaining their previous modular structure: molecular complexity increases but template replication is absent. This allows us to build up a stepwise model of ligation- based, modular evolution that could pave the way to the emergence of a ribozyme with RNA replicase activity, step at which information-driven Darwinian evolution would be triggered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)743-749
Number of pages7
Issue number5
Early online date24 Mar 2009
Publication statusPublished - May 2009

Bibliographical note

Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-NC), as described at This license permits non-commercial use, including reproduction, adaptation, and distribution of the article provided the original author and source are credited.


  • RNA folding
  • structural motif
  • modular evolution
  • RNA ligation
  • hairpin ribozyme
  • RNA polymerase


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