What is the optimum size for the genetic alphabet?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

An important question in biology is why the genetic alphabet is made of just two base pairs (G-C and A-T). This is particularly interesting because of the recent demonstration [Piccirlli, J. A., Krauch, T., Moroney, S. E. & Benner, S. A. (1990) Nature (London) 343, 33-37] that the alphabet can in principle be larger. It is possible to explain the size of the present genetic alphabet as a frozen character state that was an evolutionary optimum in an RNA world when nucleic acids functioned both for storing genetic information and for expressing information as enzymatically active RNA molecules - i.e., ribozymes. A previous model [Szathmáry, E. (1991) Proc. R. Soc. London Ser. B 245, 91-99] has described the principle of this approach. The present paper confirms and extends these results by showing explicitly the ways in which copying fidelity and metabolic efficiency change with the size of the genetic alphabet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2614-2618
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume89
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1992

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RNA
Catalytic RNA
Base Pairing
Nucleic Acids

Keywords

  • Genetic systems
  • Origin of life
  • Ribozymes
  • RNA world

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General

Cite this

What is the optimum size for the genetic alphabet? / Szathmáry, E.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 89, No. 7, 1992, p. 2614-2618.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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