The Role of Evolution and the Molecules

of Life

Evolution is the theory that all living things
have changed in response to environmental
conditions by the natural selection of randomly
occurring mutations, developing from the simplest
forms to complex forms which are more prolific
and stronger, due to their better adaptation to
their environment.
Charles Darwin provided this insight that
establishes a great chain connecting the distant
past to the present.
At the molecular level, evolution is the history
of the emergence of more complex biomolecules
from simpler organic monomeric units or even
from inorganic counterparts.

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After several days. An electric discharge is passed through the mixture of gases simulating lightning. primitive atmospheric conditions. click to see bigger picture Spark-discharge apparatus type used in the Miller and Urey experiment demonstrating the formation of organic compounds in abiotic.The well known Miller-Urey experiment showed that simple components can react abiotically (or in the absence of life) to give rise to biologically important compounds – such as components of proteins and nucleic acids.2006 . CH4. Water is heated in a closed system containing NH3.VI. organic molecules including amino acids were among the products collected. and H2. agvargas 01.

After the spontaneous synthesis of organic molecules. 1993. macromolecules are formed spontaneously from monomeric building blocks as shown below. Albert et. the next step in evolution was the formation of macromolecules. Under prebiotic conditions.VI. Principles of Biochemistry 2nd ed. Worth Publishers. Figure from Lehninger. agvargas 01. al.2006 . New York.

New York.2006 . Albert et.VI. Figure from Lehninger. Worth Publishers. 1993. al. agvargas 01.From macromolecules come supramolecular complexes which now become integral parts and components of living cells. Principles of Biochemistry 2nd ed.

VI. particularly catalytic activity.One of the important molecules of life is what we know as genes – but are actually chemically. deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA) – that define biological structure and maintain cellular integrity.2006 . agvargas 01. that increases rates of cellular reactions producing large numbers of complex molecules. The “decoding” or expression of coded genetic info in DNA into proteins is made possible by another molecule – the ribonucleic acids (RNA). (RNA). These genes encode proteins that make up cellular structures and carry out many activities in the cell.

Protein RNA DNA agvargas 01.2006 .This trio of macromolecules – DNA. water.VI. The rest are polysaccharides. inorganic ions and a large array of small organic molecules. RNA and proteins – is present in all cells.

Principles of Biochemistry 2nd ed. al. Mary K.VI. and Shawn O.2006 . Lehninger. Belmont. Biochemistry 5th ed. Farrell. New York.The central dogma of molecular biology illustrated in the figure below shows the organizing principle in the flow of genetic information: DNA to RNA to protein.1993. Sources of Figures: Campbell. CA. Worth Publishers. 2006. agvargas 01. Thomson Brooks/Cole. Albert et.

CA.VI. 2006. RNA is thus uniquely able both to serve as a template for and to catalyze its own replication. Mary K. agvargas 01. Thomson Brooks/Cole. when it was discovered in the laboratories of Sid Altman and Tom Cech that RNA is capable of catalyzing a number of chemical reactions. Nucleic acids can serve as templates for their own synthesis as a result of specific base pairing between complementary nucleotides. Farrell.Of the macromolecules in present-day cells. Biochemistry 5th ed. including the polymerization of nucleotides.2006 . Campbell. “A critical step in understanding molecular evolution was thus reached in the early 1980s. only the nucleic acids are capable of directing their own self-replication. and Shawn O. Belmont.

2000. Ordered interactions between RNA and amino acids then evolved into the present-day genetic code.. Sinauer Associates.” (Source: Cooper. and an early stage of chemical evolution is thought to have been based on self-replicating RNA molecules a period of evolution known as the RNA world.2006 . MA. M.VI. Sunderland. 2nd ed. Inc. G.Consequently. and DNA eventually replaced RNA as the genetic material.) Link to RNA-world Hypothesis agvargas 01. The Cell : A Molecular Approach. RNA is generally believed to have been the initial genetic system.

CA. 2006. agvargas 01. Belmont. Thomson Brooks/Cole. Biochemistry 5th ed.2006 .The following figures show the stages in the evolution of a system of self-replicating RNA molecules. more complexity appears in the group of RNAs. and Shawn O. Figures from Campbell. Farrell. leading eventually to the synthesis of proteins as more effective catalysts. Mary K.VI. At each stage.

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