Is RNA alive?
Is it true that RNA can self-duplicate when supplied with proteins?
If so, is it life?
RNA can make copies of itself in the presence of certain enzymes. However,
it cannot be considered a form of life by itself. There are certain viruses that use
RNA as their genetic material. These RNAs are able to code for the proteins that are
requeired for duplication and propagation of the virus within host cells. Such viruses
would be considered living organisms by most biologists, but note that they consist of
much more than a single bare RNA molecule.
Also, RNA in RNA-viruses can form DNA using an enzyme called reverse
transcriptase. Reverse, because it works backwards from the normal cell in which
DNA makes RNA. So from RNA alone, this virus can make DNA (sorry not RNA alone,
RNA plus the enzyme), and thus by temporarily using DNA, can replicate itself.
Click here to return to the Biology Archives
Update: June 2012