A model for the origin of protein synthesis as coreplicational scanning of nascent RNA

Alexander V. Yakhnin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The origin of protein synthesis is one of the major riddles of molecular biology. It was proposed a decade ago that the ribosomal RNA evolved from an earlier RNA-replisome (a ribozyme fulfilling RNA replication) while transfer RNA (tRNA) evolved from a genomic replication origin. Applying these hypotheses, I suggest that protein synthesis arose for the purpose of segregating copy and template RNA during replication through the conventional formation of a complementary strand. Nascent RNA was scanned in 5′ to 3′ direction following the progress of replication. The base pairing of several tRNA-like molecules with nascent RNA released the replication intermediates trapped in duplex. Synthesis of random peptides evolved to fuel the turnover of tRNAs. Then the combination of replication-coupled peptide formation and the independent development of amino acid-specific tRNA aminoacylation resulted in template-based protein synthesis. Therefore, the positioning of tRNAs adjacent to each other developed for the purpose of replication rather than peptide synthesis. This hypothesis does not include either selection for useful peptides or specific recognition of amino acids at the initial evolution of translation. It does, however, explain a number of features of modern translation apparatus, such as the relative flexibility of genetic code, the number of proteins shared by the transcription and translation machines, the universal participation of an RNA subunit in co-translational protein secretion, 'unscheduled translation', and factor-independent translocation. Assistance of original ribosomes in keeping apart the nascent transcript from its template is still widely explored by modern bacteria and perhaps by other domains of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-536
Number of pages14
JournalOrigins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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