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The discovery of ribozymes led to the proposal of an RNA world, where a single type of molecule was supposedly capable of self-replication and chemical catalysis. We show here that both autocatalysis and organocatalysis can be engineered into a synthetic structure. The compound is shown to selectively accelerate its own formation and catalyze either hydrogenation or nucleophilic addition to alpha,beta-unsaturated aldehydes. The observed reactivity indicates that the components of a purported pre-RNA world conceivably include smaller organic molecules.

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