A stochastic model of nonenzymatic nucleic acid replication: "Elongators" sequester replicators

Chrisantha Fernando, Günter Von Kiedrowski, Eörs Szathmáry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Citations (Scopus)


The origin of nucleic acid template replication is a major unsolved problem in science. A novel stochastic model of nucleic acid chemistry was developed to allow rapid prototyping of chemical experiments designed to discover sufficient conditions for template replication. Experiments using the model brought to attention a robust property of nucleic acid template populations, the tendency for elongation to outcompete replication. Externally imposed denaturation-renaturation cycles did not reverse this tendency. For example, it has been proposed that fast tidal cycling could establish a TCR (tidal chain reaction) analogous to a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) acting on nucleic acid polymers, allowing their self-replication. However, elongating side-reactions that would have been prevented by the polymerase in the PCR still occurred in the simulation of the TCR. The same finding was found with temperature and monomer cycles. We propose that if cycling reactors are to allow template replication, oligonucleotide phenotypes that are capable of favorably altering the flux ratio between replication and elongation, for example, by facilitating sequence-specific cleavage within templates, are necessary; accordingly the minimal replicase ribozyme may have possessed restriction functionality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-585
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Molecular Evolution
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2007


  • Minimal ribozyme
  • Nonenzymatic template replication
  • Nucleic acids
  • Origin of life
  • Self-replication
  • Temperature cycling
  • Tidal cycling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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