DIY molecule

A VIRUS has provided a hint of how the Earth’s first organisms got things done. Many biologists believe that the earliest forms of life comprised molecules of RNA—DNA’s chemical cousin—that were able to copy themselves. Now Steven Lommel, a virologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, suggests how RNA itself may have regulated that copying. His team reports the discovery that a modern virus still uses this type of regulation. The researchers discovered that a tiny snippet of RNA in the red clover necrotic mosaic virus directly turns on a gene for making the virus’s protein casing (Science, vol 281, p 829). Normally,
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