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Complex Coacervates as a Pre-Biotic Compartment for RNA Oligomerisation

Verduijn, Victor (2019) Complex Coacervates as a Pre-Biotic Compartment for RNA Oligomerisation. Bachelor's Thesis, Chemistry.


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The origin of life is a fundamental question that has kept humanity busy since the dawn of its existence. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that there is no lack of theories which set out to answer or shed light on this intriguing question. One such theory is the RNA world hypothesis. This theory suggests that RNA predates DNA and proteins, and bases its argument on the catalytic and information storage capabilities of this macromolecule. However, this raises the question as to how the first RNA oligomers and/or polymers were formed. It was researched whether a liquid-liquid phase separation phenomenon referred to as complex coacervates could hold the key to answering this question. Complex coacervates are spherical droplets which strongly partition solutes, and could, therefore, have acted as pre-biotic compartments for primordial RNA oligomerisation. The results were analysed by means of ultra performance liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, and NMR spectroscopy. Complex coacervate systems were identified that successfully partition RNA monomers, and their pre-activated counterparts, phosphorimidazolides. These compounds (adenosine 5’-monophosphorimidazolide and adenosine 5’-monophosphor-(2-methyl)-imidazolide) were successfully synthesised in up to 80% yields. However, phosphoramidates and guanosine phosphorimidazolides, different activated RNA monomers, could not be synthesised successfully. Even though complex coacervates can partition phosphorimidazolides no oligomerisation products had been observed. Therefore, RNA monomers were attempted to be activated in situ with poly-L-histidine, an imidazole moiety containing macromolecule, and EDC. This method was proposed to allow activation similar to templated RNA oligomerisation reactions. However, mostly hydrolysis, pyrophosphate, and buffer-nucleobase adduct formation occurred without any oligomerisation product. Therefore, it was concluded that complex coacervates can efficiently partition RNA monomers, and to a limited extent their activated counterparts. However, more research is necessary to ascertain the feasibility of RNA oligomerisation in complex coacervates.

Item Type: Thesis (Bachelor's Thesis)
Supervisor nameSupervisor E mail
Degree programme: Chemistry
Thesis type: Bachelor's Thesis
Language: English
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2019
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2019 06:46

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