Magic Ribosome Appears as Missing Link
A father-daughter team takes on the “selfish gene” concept and considers the ribosome as the “missing link” for lucky LUCA.
“What does DNA want?” Meredith Root-Bernstein asks in The Conversation. “It wants to replicate” is the usual answer, pointed out by her father, Robert Root-Bernstein. But they notice that DNA does not naturally replicate itself. It coils up into a ball and resists change. Case in point:
The resting position of DNA is very tightly curled up with its genes inaccessible. Resting DNA is so stable that it can protect its genes for 10,000 years or more, allowing scientists to recover DNA from frozen mammoths. This is not a molecule yearning to disperse its genes, but one that wants to conserve them by remaining curled up in a knot.
We reasoned that the cellular structure that wants to copy genes and turn them into the proteins that make up functioning cells is ribosomes. The resting state of a ribosome is: “I’m ready to translate DNA into proteins.” Ribosomes “want” to convert genes into working molecules.
So the question should be, “What does a ribosome want?” Ribosomes have machinery to build things. They want to make copies of themselves. So, the father-daughter team reasons, the “selfish gene” concept is wrong. The missing link to the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) must be the ribosome.
But how could a functional ribosome appear out of primordial soup by chance? Since they’re anthropomorphizing anyway, here’s their solution:
In a recent paper in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, we have shown that rRNA does contain vestiges of the mRNAs, tRNAs and “genes” that encode its own protein structure and function. Ribosomes are not simply the passive translators of genes as described in textbooks. We believe they are the missing link between simple pre-biotic molecules and the single-celled LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, considered to be the first living thing on Earth.
DNA evolved to conserve and protect the information originally encoded in rRNA. Cells and organisms have evolved to optimise the replication of ribosomes, and ribosomes are almost the same across all species. Maybe the selfish ribosome puts a new spin on feeling kinship with other creatures. We are all just different kinds of homes to ribosomes.
Given the complexity of a ribosome, it would appear a tall order to expect one to emerge out of a pool of “simple pre-biotic molecules”. Maybe it’s a spiritual essence about these molecules that gives them a sense of kinship.
If you have heard a stupider theory about life than this, give us a call. Can you imagine the ridicule if a non-Darwinian wrote anything this lame as a “scientific” theory of the origin of life? Robert is a professor of physiology at Michigan State. It sounds like he was drunk on Darwine when he wrote this. What’s even more remarkable is that a journal would publish it. It goes to show that when people cease believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything.
At least their theory shows that the “selfish gene” concept is unworkable, too. If you retain any hopes that chance will build a ribosome, clear your head with our online book.