Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 77, Issue 4, pp 185–196 | Cite as

The Protein Invasion: A Broad Review on the Origin of the Translational System

  • David W. MorgensEmail author


Translation, coded peptide synthesis, arguably exists at the heart of modern cellular life. By orchestrating an incredibly complex interaction between tRNAs, mRNAs, aaRSs, the ribosome, and numerous other small molecules, the translational system allows the interpretation of data in the form of DNA to create massively complex proteins which control and enact almost every cellular function. A natural question then, is how did this system evolve? Here we present a broad review of the existing theories of the last two decades on the origin of the translational system. We attempt to synthesize the wide variety of ideas as well as organize them into modular components, addressing the evolution of the peptide-RNA interaction, tRNA, mRNA, the ribosome, and the first proteins separately. We hope to provide both a comprehensive overview of the literature as well as a framework for future discussions and novel theories.


RNA world Origin of translation Origin of the ribosome tRNA evolution 



We are grateful to Andre R. O. Cavalcanti for his support, advice, and critical reading of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biology DepartmentPomona CollegeClaremontUSA

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