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Nucleic Acids and the RNA World Pages 74-89 Chapter 4.

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1 Nucleic Acids and the RNA World Pages Chapter 4

2 RNA vs. Protein Chemical Evolution stated that life evolved from a polymer called a protein. HOWEVER, now many scientists question this. There is currently a large scientific motion towards a polymer called a Nucleic Acid. –Specifically, a RiboNucleic Acid RNA

3 RNA World Hypothesis This proposal is called the RNA World Hypothesis Again, this is still very HYPOTHetical THIS IS THE DELEMA OF

4 What is Life????? This is an age old question that scientists still debate! We don’t have a simple explanation, and therefore discussing the origin of life is nearly impossible There are 2 versions of the story… –We will need to use the 2 nd version

5 Version 1 (The easy version) 1. All life is made of cells 2. Life reacts to its environment 3. Life reproduces 4. Life uses energy 5. Life grows at some point –Sadly… isn’t so cut and dry!

6 Version 2 (Our version) Because scientists constantly debate this issue, we only use two of these rules to discuss LIFE in high end Biology 1. The ability to reproduce! 2. The ability to acquire particular molecules and use them in CONTROLLED CHEMICAL REACTIONS that maintain conditions suitable for life & contribute to growth!

7 What About the Other 3 Requirements They are there…. They are just used as subcategories at this level of Biology. –IE: Chemical reactions (Rule 2) are precisely controlled because chemicals and reactants are bound by a Plasma Membrane. –Therefore, it is required for life… it is just no longer the rule! –The problem is that if it is debated, it becomes an uncertain theory –Remember, even the “rules” are JUST theories

8 All Polymers are Proteins? Thus far, every polymer we have learned about IS a protein. HOWEVER, we now are learning of a new polymer. Proteins are the result of polymerization of monomers called Amino Acids Nucleic Acids are the result of polymerization of monomers called Nucleotides

9 Nucleotide

10 Components of a Nucleotide 3 components –Phosphate group –Sugar –Nitrogenous (Contains a nitrogen) Base PAGE 75

11 Sugar Your sugar is an organic compound with a carbonyl group –C=O

12 How do Nucleotides Polymerize Figure 4.2 on page 76 It starts with a phosphodiester linkage –This condensation reaction is the formation of the bond between the phosphate group of one nucleotide and the hydroxyl group of the sugar component. If the nucleotides involved contain the sugar RIBOSE, the polymer is called RNA If the nucleotides involved contain the sugar DEOXYRIBOSE, the polymer is called DNA

13 DNA’s Sugar-Phosphate Backbone

14 RNA’s Sugar Phosphate Backbone

15 Count Your Primes

16 Base Pairs






22 Chargaff’s Theory Found that the #of bases (Purines & Pyrimidines) are the same –The # of A’s = # of T’s –The # of C’s = # of G’s Found that these bases must be relavent to its matching pair

23 WATSON and CRICK Announced in 1953 Used the results of other scientists to figure out the structure of DNA

24 Watson & Crick Model Chemists found that DNA polymerized through the formation of phosphodiester linkages –This concluded a sugar-phosphate backbone By analyzing the total number of purines and pyrimidines it was found that the number of A’s and T’s were equal to the number of C’s and G’s –This was called Chargaff’s rule after Erwin Chargaff X-ray diffraction showed a repeating scatter pattern (.34 nm, 2.0nm, 3.4nm) –This repeating pattern only makes sense if the molecule is shaped as a double helix Pages 79-82

25 Scatter Pattern X-ray Diffraction

26 Wilkins & Franklin These measurements were from brilliant work done by Rosalind Franklin from King’s College Franklin, who was a leader in the field of X-ray crystallography, worked in Maurice Wilkins Lab Maurice Wilkins was the man charged with finding the structure of DNA in England –Wilkins and Franklin were not friends… But Wilkins, Watson, and Crick were friends… –Let the soap opera of science begin… … …


28 Scatter Pattern X-ray Diffraction Watson & Crick began to analyze the size and geometry of deoxyribose, phosphate groups, and nitrogenous bases. Using things like bond angles, and measurements, they were able to devise 2.0nm probably represented the width of the helix, and.34 was likely the distance between bases stacked in the spiral They arranged two strands of DNA running in opposite directions (5`-3` and 3`-5`)

29 Base Pairing Using the x-ray diffraction patterns and measurements, it was found only to work if: Adenine always bonded with Thymine Guanine always bonded with Cytosine This phenomena is called Complimentary Base Pairing


31 Polarity of DNA DNA is put together like a ladder with the sugar-phosphate bonds form the supports and the base pais form the rungs of the ladder The tight packing of the nitrogenous bases are the hydrophobic interior that is hard to break apart The exterior, sugar-phosphate backbone IS, however, hydrophilic, causing the molecule to be water soluble

32 Major vs. Minor Grooves

33 Letters of a Book Watson & Cricks Model of DNA was revolutionary because it explained how DNA worked In the structure of DNA alone we can see how the different sequences of bases in DNA act like the letters in a book = A-T C-G

34 DNA Size Width of the helix = 2.0nm Length of one full complete turn of helix = 3.4nm Distance between bases =.34nm

35 DNA Size

36 PROBLEM with DNA As we have mentioned, DNA seems like a great suspect for the first polymer to reproduce itself ONE PROBLEM DNA is WAYYYYYyyyyy to simple and stable of a template act as a catalyst and fuel self replication In fact, never has it been observed to act as a catalyst in the laboratory… –Which means, without an external energy source, DNA is very unlikely to be able to sustainably self replicate And with the problem that “DNA doesn’t just replicate” what could it be???

37 RNA as a suspect for life ….as a possible suspect for life’s “roots” … … Or maybe first we should ask…

38 DNA vs. RNA Both have a sugar phosphate backbone formed by phosphodiester linkages However there are 2 main differences: –The pyrimidine base THYMINE does not exist in RNA. Instead, RNA contains the the closely related pyrimidine base URACIL –The sugar in the sugar-phosphate backbone of RNA is RIBOSE, not deoxyribose as in DNA

39 RNA The second point is CRITICAL when comparing the two (and understanding RNA) The hydroxyl group on the 2`-carbon of RIBOSE is MUCH more reactive This is the main difference that makes DNA stable and RNA reactive The absence of Thymine and presence of Uracil makes them easy to distinguish

40 RNA Hairpin Another difference between RNA and DNA is in their secondary structures Very often, RNA is denoted as a single strand (where DNA is a double strand) However, RNA can appear to be a double stranded helix during what is called a Hairpin This is when the secondary structure of RNA loops and forms a double stranded “stem”

41 RNA Hairpin

42 Hairpins These form WITHOUT energy input because they exergonic –Hydrogen bond formation is exothermic and exergonic Though they do release the entropy of the strand, this is a “flag” for being the first reproducing molecule because it can release bond energy required for replication

43 RNA Contains Information RNA contains a sequence of bases that is analogous to the letters in a word This allows it to carry information Because hydrogen bonding occurs specifically between A-U and G-C in RNA, it is THEORETICALLY possible that it can make a copy of itself Figure 4.14

44 Template & Complimentary When considering the replication process, it is important to know the terminology for each strand –Template Strand: Original strand –Complimentary Strand: New strand being created It is called this because it needs to match the template as a perfect compliment


46 DNA Replication DNA is not only an exceptional information carrying molecule; it is also structurally made to replicate itself –Through simple base pairing, DNA basically has two copies at all time –All DNA polymerase (the protein that helps form the new DNA strand) has to do is unzip the molecule Once the molecule is unzipped, deoxyribose nucleotides will naturally make new base pairs

47 DNA polymerase works in a 5’-3’ direction

48 Leading & Lagging Where the DNA strand is unzipped is known as the replication fork –From this fork, each of the original strands acts as a template for replication The leading strand allows the new strand synthesized complementary to it, to be synthesized 5' to 3' in the same direction as the movement of the replication fork. The lagging strand starts away from the replication fork (moving towards it) and adds small fragments to template strand called Okazaki fragments –DNA polymerase works in a 5’-3’ direction



51 A lil bit of energy In order for the template strand to make a new complimentary strand an input of energy (a small amount) is required Compared to a protein, RNA is VERY STABLE and not (very) catalytically reactive However, in rare occurrences, RNA can form the necessary tertiary structures and transition forms for chemical catalysis to occur

52 The unlikely catalyst If RNA can form the necessary tertiary structure to behave like a catalytic protein than it should be able to break bonds to release energy If the bonds break and the free energy is released, the energy could be absorbed by a templating molecule This molecule would then have the necessary energy to form the necessary bonds of a complimenting structure, and could affectively replicate itself


54 Its alive…. ITS ALIVE!!! This would adequately meet both of lifes (current) requirements –Replication (Reproduction) would occur –Energy would be used to effectively carry out the replication process Then, over a great deal of time, these replicating molecules would change (due to simple mutation) and likely increase in complexity Because RNA carries a code, complexity from mutation would seem very likely…

55 DNA in the LAB DNA has, for the last 50 years been considered to be the template of life –Mostly because RNA is, for the most part, just a copy of DNA –And because DNA contains the information that explains how to build proteins which are the functional units of life In the laboratory, two of the most important techniques for working with DNA is Gel Electrophoresis and DNA PCR

56 Gel Electrophoresis Used daily by science laboratories and CSI units Requires DNA P.C.R (Copyng) Uses a “ladder” to compare the distance various DNA pieces move in a set amount of time. Generally, small pieces of DNA move more rapidly than large pieces Because the DNA is cut at similar base locations, each person has a unique gel electrograph This causes the individual DNA fingerprint!

57 Gel Electro-graph

58 Material

59 Process

60 PCR In nature, most organisms copy their DNA in the same way. The PCR mimics this process, only it does it in a test tube. When any cell divides, enzymes called polymerases make a copy of all the DNA in each chromosome. To copy DNA, polymerase requires two other components: a supply of the four nucleotide bases and something called a primer.


62 P.C.R. A PCR vial contains all the necessary components for DNA duplication: –a piece of DNA, –large quantities of the four nucleotides, –large quantities of the primer sequence, –and DNA polymerase.


64 DNA is Formed From Genes In biochemistry and genetics it has been genetic dogma that genes are parts of DNA However, recent research is showing that it may be more accurate to say that genes form your DNA… –To explain this story we have to think back a long long time ago… Perhaps about 4.5 B.Y.A.


66 The first “Genes” THE RNA WORLD HYPOTHESIS: –The prebiotic soup was composed of a multitude of compounds, most importantly: Protein, Nucleic Acids, Lipids, & Carbohydrates All of these molecules naturally form bonds in the presence of energy. The bond forming would last until the molecules were broken down by a different reaction (2 nd law of thermodynamics)


68 The RNA WORLD Through a generic form of natural selection, only macromolecules that resisted degradation from entropy would exist longer than any other Over time, the soup became dominated by macromolecules that were resistant to degradation –This domination would be brief in the large scheme, because the molecule lacked the ability to template replication


70 RNA Takes the Lead At some point, an RNA molecule (through random chance and bonding) Hairpin loops forming a ribozyme (RNA Catalyst) –This molecule can split (through catalysis) and can form a template with free floating nucleotides (through base pairing) –This allows it to rapidly replicate itself, giving it a chance to increase its numbers against the tide of entropy –Over time, this replicating RNA becomes dominant in the prebiotic soup

71 Now to Battle Entropy The RNA molecule, now commoner than any other molecule in the soup, over time will develop copying errors These errors, called mutations, cause some RNAs to differ from others –Some strands get longer, some get shorter, and most importantly, some begin to interact with other macromolecules –Some RNA molecules begin to interact with amino acids, forming bonds the eventually lead to the first tRNA (Transfer RNA) –Some become intertwined with protiens, forming elaborate machines called ribosomes –Some interact with free lipids forming fat bubbles that protect them from the degradation of entropy


73 The Battle Continues Due to the RNA molecules success, the amount of free nucleotides in the prebiotic soup decreased dramatically As the RNA molecules became more and more different, (and free nucleotides became more rare in the soup)many of them began degrading other RNAs for free nucleotides Similar to a predator degrading its prey for nutrition Now it is a game of pure natural selection…


75 RNA to DNA –The pressure was on RNA to become resistant to degradation (from entropy and predator RNAs) RNA was much safer from degradation in the hairpin loop form, but couldn’t sustain this structure because of the nature of RNA (DICER naturally cuts it) –One replicating RNA molecule had a writing error that allowed for a different Thymine nucleotide to replace the common Uracil (Only possible when the Sugar on the S-P backbone loses an oxygen) This one change allowed for the RNA to hairpin loop, and remain looped in the form of a double strand –This new double stranded RNA with a thymine in the place of a uracil (called DNA) was extremely resistant to entropy (Stable) and made replication even easier


77 And Then There Was DNA… DNA was far more stable which allowed for a decrease in mutations Although this likely slowed down the rate at which differentiation occurred, it also dramatically decreased the chance that molecule would be degraded Over time, this molecule began to differentiate and compete much the same way the early RNA molecules did Some DNA molecules utilized the tRNA molecules to create strands of amino acids that it could use to become more specialized Others utilized lipids to form strong outer barriers that were only permeable to things the cell needed A new world, a world of cells, was beginning to emerge!


79 Genes make DNA Each new useful (or negative) change that occurred within these first nucleic acids would today be called genes Selective pressure made it so only the most beneficial “gene-containing” “organisms” were able to make successful offspring –But remember, the “organism” we are referring to is really just the same collection of genes that formed the RNA strand The genes that formed the more successful organism dominated the less successful and replaced them…

80 The Selfish Gene As natural selection pressures grew stronger, it became essential for the genes to cooperate and work together which allowed them to specialize –This cooperation led to the formation of chromosomes (Groups of genes working together) –Even internally genes fought to insure they would be successful in the next generation –IE: XY gene competition; Formation of placenta Over time, this led to the formation of basic and eventually complex cellular organisms

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