Robert F. Service in Science:
It’s the ultimate chicken-and-egg conundrum. Life doesn’t work without tiny molecular machines called ribosomes, whose job is to translate genes into proteins. But ribosomes themselves are made of proteins. So how did the first life arise?
Researchers may have taken the first step toward solving this mystery. They’ve shown that RNA molecules can grow short proteins called peptides all by themselves—no ribosome required. What’s more, this chemistry works under conditions likely present on early Earth.
“It’s an important advance,” says Claudia Bonfio, an origin of life chemist at the University of Strasbourg who was not involved in the work. The study, she says, provides scientists a new way of thinking about how peptides were built.