News of the WeekORIGINS OF LIFE

RNA Study Suggests Cool Cradle of Life

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Science  08 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5399, pp. 155-157
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5399.155a

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Recent evidence has favored a hot environment for the cradle of life, but now on page 220 comes an indication that the cell that gave rise to all of today's life-forms was ill-suited for extremely hot conditions. Researchers analyzed 40 living organisms for two genes that act as a sort of thermometer for an organism's ideal growing temperature and found that in the ancestral cell, these genes likely could not have withstood temperatures above about 70°C--a more moderate temperature than many have proposed. Although the evidence is indirect, other biologists say the work is a clever approach that will reinvigorate the debate about the conditions in which life began.