Home > DNA in the News > DNA and Other Life Forms

DNA and Other Life Forms

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 27 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Dna Life Forms Riboswitches Research Rna

While science has come a long way in terms of our knowledge about evolution and life forms, a new study has provided some additional clues to earlier life forms on Earth. Not only that, but we have a sense of what these earlier life forms looked like.

Researchers found that some kinds of bacteria could do anything from swimming and changing into newer kinds of bacteria to developing into a dangerous, virus form without any DNA.

Learning About Early Life on Earth

To fully understand this new information that researchers found, you have to consider how bacteria work. Some bacteria rely on RiboNucleic Acid (RNA), which at a very simplistic level can be described as the 'middle-man' between DNA and the production of proteins.

Your proteins are vital to carrying out important functions in cells. Yet, new research suggests that protein perhaps wasn't so important at one point in time. On top of that, RNA played a much bigger part than its current role today. The research shows that for bacteria, proteins aren't consistently as important for carrying out cellular functions.

Still, it's a curious question as it was wondered just how RNA could play such a big role and coax all of these changes when we consider that today, the proteins in our cells would be necessary.

The answer was an interesting challenge, but scientists found that there were minuscule RNA molecules in the shape of a circle. Known as cyclic di-GMP, these molecules could turn a gene on or off. Also, they could direct whether bacteria would swim, for instance, or not move at all. In fact, cyclic di-GMP would determine a huge array of functions for a bacterium.

The Magic of Riboswitches

It is this little RNA molecule – cyclic di-GMP – that can bring to life a bigger RNA structure known as a riboswitch. These riboswitches are a relatively new discovery over the last decade and research has shown that they can impact quite a lot of functional activities in an organism.

Found inside individual pieces of messenger RNA, riboswitches can direct genes to turn on and off, which contrasts with our previous knowledge that this is a role only for proteins.

DNA and RNA

This use of RNA by a bacterium would therefore precede any large and important changes – doing so without any contribution from proteins. But now, a bigger question remains, which is the question of how DNA came into existence if proteins are mandatory to carry out all of the vital functions of life.

It is this recent study that has addressed this complicated question. Researchers think originally, the individual nucleotide strands that make up RNA were the first life forms. During this time billions of years ago, it is thought that these single strands had a major responsibility for vital life functions in bacteria. Basically, they carried out the necessary functions that proteins do today.

Learning About Cellular History

One of the interesting and exciting aspects of this research is that it could actually pave the way for improved medical treatments. Scientists think that if a molecule mimicked the cyclic di-GMP, it could wipe out some of our modern, dangerous bacterial infections. For now though, the research has at least provided new information about some of the earlier life forms on Earth.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • _xXFortnite GamerXx_
    Re: An Overview of DNA Functions
    Why my DNA not give me pro gamer moves and big brain times?
    15 October 2019
  • Sally
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    I want to do this because of paper with proof of being a sister or daughter was reason why I was not able to attend this funeral please help.
    15 October 2019
  • Tammy
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    How good are DNA results when DNA is taken from a person close to death.Such as saliva,hair and toenails?
    13 October 2019
  • Beth
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Hi my sister's grandson past away just recently he had a toxicology test done we recently found out his girl friend of 3mths havin his baby…
    4 October 2019
  • Wag
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Wife passed away while we were on vacation in the sierras. Is it possible that there may be some item of hers that would have dna on it for a…
    28 September 2019
  • Ankesh
    Re: The Properties of DNA
    Please explain the properties with diagram...it helps to understand the topic Easley
    19 September 2019
  • Kitty
    Re: Using DNA and for Immigration Purposes
    I have 3 children for my ex partner he came to me and told me that immigration have asked for birth certificate of my…
    28 August 2019
  • Laverne
    Re: Using DNA and for Immigration Purposes
    Hi..i am a USC. I petition for my stepchildren who are in Jamaica and the petition has been approved. I have since…
    9 August 2019
  • Mhay
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    I need some answer...my son died 24 years ago, August 6,1995, he was born July 29,1995, I just have doubts in my mind, as Fabella Hospital in…
    30 July 2019
  • mich
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    I would like to know if an old baseball cap would have my father's dna. My dad passed away in 2010.
    30 July 2019