Origin of life

The seemingly endless quest to understand how life on Earth began takes another step closer to a chemical answer as scientists at the University of North Carolina show how the genetic code developed in two distinct stages to help primordial chemicals evolve into living cells 4 billion years ago. The new work flies in the face of the "RNA world" theory, suggesting that RNA alone was no more likely to catalyze the emergence of peptides and proteins from the so-called primordial soup as peptides were to catalyze the formation of RNA. “Our work shows that the close linkage between the physical properties of amino acids, the genetic code, and protein folding was likely essential from the beginning, long before large, sophisticated molecules arrived on the scene," says Charles Carter.