I know this sounds a lot like chicken and egg question and while the latter has an answer, I am intrigued about the former.

A modified form of the question would be, in the course of abiogenesis, what formed first? The DNA or the proteins (hence enzymes and DNA polymerases)?

The principle behind it is that the DNA needs an enzyme to replicate.(DNA pol)

But DNA pol itself, being a protein, needs a DNA pol A/B/C gene on the DNA! (Transcription and translation) Not to mention all the other proteins required for transcription and translation.

Same is the case for RNA and RNA pol.

If the DNA/RNA formed first, how did it replicate without a protein? If Protein formed first, then how did it came to existence without DNA/RNA?

Let's make a big assumption and say that nucleic acid formed for the first time and replicated without proteins. Is it possible for nucleic acids replicate without proteins? For example, a abiogenetically formed DNA sequence just randomly attracted its complementary strand and whatever could fit, fitted and somehow the phosphodiester bonds were sealed sans proteins. That sounds too implausible.

Would love if somebody provides sources with evidences of DNA/protein abiotically forming de novo sans enzymes, genes.


1 Answer 1


The straight forward answer is: we don't know. We don't have any direct evidence for what happened at that time nor any completely developed and coherent theories for how it worked.

The widely believed hypothesis is the "RNA World" hypothesis. RNA, unlike DNA, is capable of spontaneously folding to form catalytic molecules and thus avoids the needs for translation and transcription by proteins since it can bootstrap it's own synthesis. The idea is that, over time, the RNA developed the means to synthesize proteins and then started using DNA as a more stable storage molecule. The earlier RNA-based RNA polymerases were supplanted by higher fidelity protein polymerases over evolutionary time so we no longer see them in modern cells.

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    $\begingroup$ You can also add a note on the self replicating ribozymes $\endgroup$
    Feb 3, 2016 at 18:50

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