RNA to the Rescue; June 2005; Scientific American Magazine; by JR Minkel; 2 Page(s)
The central dogma of modern biology holds that genetic information is inherited in the form of DNA, copied into RNA and expressed as protein; pride of place goes to DNA. But the spectacular discovery that a species of plant can summon up genes its parents have lost highlights biologists' increasing recognition of RNA as a more versatile and important molecule in its own right.
RNA already has a special place among biological molecules. It can store genetic information, as DNA does, but it can also adopt complex three-dimensional shapes and catalyze chemical reactions on itself, as proteins do. "RNA is DNA on steroids," says Robert Reenan, a geneticist at the University of Connecticut. "It can do just about anything." Life probably began as an "RNA world," in which concatenations of RNA molecules pulled double duty as genetic template and reproductive machinery.