National Science Foundation under Grant No. NSF PHY11-25915 to KITP.
The notion that molecular systems such as RNA can display a wide range of evolutionary processes in the absence of fully formed cellular life continues to gain support. Understanding how RNA can behave in an abiotic context is a key piece of our picture of how life developed and expanded on the Earth, and by proxy, elsewhere. We can study how RNA behaves in this regard through a combination of in vivo work (with small regulatory RNAs and larger catalytic RNAs alike), experimental work in the laboratory, and through powerful analytical and simulation studies. These efforts will not only grant us a better sense of the early stages of life on this planet but also of how RNA evolved to play a central role in contemporary metabolism. Many key ideas of primitive RNA functionality were developed in the 1970s and 1980s before we had either the experimental systems in place to fully explore these concepts or the appreciation of the extent to which RNAs were important to the cell. In this special issue, some of the recent discoveries and advances in RNA biology, biochemistry, and evolutionary biology are presented.
Lehman, Niles. 2015. "The RNA World: 4,000,000,050 years old." Life 5, no. 4: 1583-1586.