The chemical origins of life and its early evolution: an introduction

David M. J. Lilley, John Sutherland

    Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    Can we look at contemporary biology and couple this with chemical insight to propose some plausible mechanisms for the origin of life on the planet? In what follows, we examine some promising chemical reactions by which the building blocks for nucleic acids might have been created about a billion years after the Earth formed. This could have led to self-assembling systems that were based on an all-RNA metabolism, where RNA is both catalytic and informational. We consider the breadth of RNA enzymes presently existing in biology, and to what extent these might have covered a wider range of chemistry in the RNA world. Ultimately, the RNA world would probably have given way to protein-based life quite quickly, and the origins of peptidyl transferase activity are discussed below.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2853-2856
    Number of pages4
    JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences
    Issue number1580
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2011


    • prebiotic chemistry
    • self-assembling systems
    • RNA world
    • ribozymes
    • ribosome
    • RNA


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