The RNA World: Molecular Cooperation at the Origins of Life

Nat Rev Genet. 2015 Jan;16(1):7-17. doi: 10.1038/nrg3841. Epub 2014 Nov 11.


The RNA World concept posits that there was a period of time in primitive Earth's history - about 4 billion years ago - when the primary living substance was RNA or something chemically similar. In the past 50 years, this idea has gone from speculation to a prevailing idea. In this Review, we summarize the key logic behind the RNA World and describe some of the most important recent advances that have been made to support and expand this logic. We also discuss the ways in which molecular cooperation involving RNAs would facilitate the emergence and early evolution of life. The immediate future of RNA World research should be a very dynamic one.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Base Pairing
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Origin of Life*
  • RNA / biosynthesis*
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism
  • RNA / physiology*
  • RNA, Catalytic / metabolism


  • RNA, Catalytic
  • RNA