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RNA -- evolution, RNA molecules -- research


The origins of life require the emergence of informational polymers capable of reproduction. In the RNA world on the primordial Earth, reproducible RNA molecules would have arisen from a mixture of compositionally biased, poorly available, short RNA sequences in prebiotic environments. However, it remains unclear what level of sequence diversity within a small subset of population is required to initiate RNA reproduction by prebiotic mechanisms. Here, using a simulation for template-directed recombination and ligation, we explore the effect of sequence diversity in a given population for the onset of RNA reproduction. We show that RNA reproduction is improbable in low and high diversity of finite populations; however, it could robustly occur in an intermediate sequence diversity. The intermediate range broadens toward higher diversity as population size increases. We also found that emergent reproducible RNAs likely form autocatalytic networks and collectively reproduce by catalyzing the formation of each other, allowing the expansion of information capacity. These results highlight the potential of abiotic RNAs, neither abundant nor diverse, to kick-start autocatalytic reproduction through spontaneous network formation.


© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

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