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.


and H2. An electric discharge is passed through the mixture of gases simulating lightning.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. agvargas 01. Water is heated in a closed system containing NH3. click to see bigger picture Spark-discharge apparatus type used in the Miller and Urey experiment demonstrating the formation of organic compounds in abiotic. CH4.2006 .VI. primitive atmospheric conditions. organic molecules including amino acids were among the products collected. After several days.

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

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

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

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

agvargas 01. and Shawn O. Worth Publishers. Lehninger.2006 . New York.1993. Mary K. al. Thomson Brooks/Cole. CA.VI. 2006. Farrell. Biochemistry 5th ed. Sources of Figures: Campbell.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. Belmont. Principles of Biochemistry 2nd ed. Albert et.

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

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

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

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