Crucial steps to life: From chemical reactions to code using agents

Biosystems. 2016 Feb:140:49-57. doi: 10.1016/j.biosystems.2015.12.007. Epub 2015 Dec 23.


The concepts of the origin of the genetic code and the definitions of life changed dramatically after the RNA world hypothesis. Main narratives in molecular biology and genetics such as the "central dogma," "one gene one protein" and "non-coding DNA is junk" were falsified meanwhile. RNA moved from the transition intermediate molecule into centre stage. Additionally the abundance of empirical data concerning non-random genetic change operators such as the variety of mobile genetic elements, persistent viruses and defectives do not fit with the dominant narrative of error replication events (mutations) as being the main driving forces creating genetic novelty and diversity. The reductionistic and mechanistic views on physico-chemical properties of the genetic code are no longer convincing as appropriate descriptions of the abundance of non-random genetic content operators which are active in natural genetic engineering and natural genome editing.

Keywords: Genetic parasites; Natural code users; Non-coding RNAs; Repeat sequences.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Code / genetics*
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Origin of Life*
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics*
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics*


  • RNA, Untranslated