Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

SoylentNews is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop. Only 16 submissions in the queue.
posted by martyb on Tuesday November 14, @03:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the spark-of-life dept.

Scientists Just Found a Vital Missing Link in The Origins of Life on Earth

Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute in California have identified a molecule capable of performing phosphorylation in water, making it a solid candidate for what has until now been a missing link in the chain from lifeless soup to evolving cells. In the classic chicken and egg conundrum of biology's origins, debate continues to rage over which process kicked off others in order to get to life. Was RNA was[sic] followed by protein structures? Did metabolism spark the whole shebang? And what about the lipids?

No matter what school of abiogenesis you hail from, the production of these various classes of organic molecules requires a process called phosphorylation – getting a group of three oxygens and a phosphorus to attach to other molecules.

Nobody has provided strong evidence in support of any particular agent that might have been responsible for making this happen to prebiotic compounds. Until now. "We suggest a phosphorylation chemistry that could have given rise, all in the same place, to oligonucleotides, oligopeptides, and the cell-like structures to enclose them," says researcher Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy.

Enter diamidophosphate (DAP). Combined with imidazole acting as a catalyst, DAP could have bridged the critical gap from early compounds such as uridine and cytidine. That might not seem overly exciting, but phosphorylating nucleosides like these is a crucial step on the road to building the chains of RNA that could serve as the first primitive genes.

Also at Newsweek. Diamidophosphate.

Phosphorylation, oligomerization and self-assembly in water under potential prebiotic conditions (DOI: 10.1038/nchem.2878) (DX)

Related: Life's First Molecule Was Protein, Not RNA, New Model Suggests


Original Submission

Related Stories

Life’s First Molecule Was Protein, Not RNA, New Model Suggests 11 comments

From Quanta Magazine: Life's First Molecule Was Protein, Not RNA, New Model Suggests

Proteins have generally taken a back seat to RNA molecules in scientists' speculations about how life on Earth started. Yet a new computational model that describes how early biopolymers could have grown long enough to fold into useful shapes may change that. If it holds up, the model, which is now guiding laboratory experiments for confirmation, could re-establish the reputation of proteins as the original self-replicating biomolecule.

For scientists studying the origin of life, one of the greatest chicken-or-the-egg questions is: Which came first — proteins or nucleic acids like DNA and RNA? Four billion years ago or so, basic chemical building blocks gave rise to longer polymers that had a capacity to self-replicate and to perform functions essential to life: namely, storing information and catalyzing chemical reactions. For most of life's history, nucleic acids have handled the former job and proteins the latter one. Yet DNA and RNA carry the instructions for making proteins, and proteins extract and copy those instructions as DNA or RNA. Which one could have originally handled both jobs on its own?

For decades, the favored candidate has been RNA — particularly since the discovery in the 1980s that RNA can also fold up and catalyze reactions, much as proteins do. Later theoretical and experimental evidence further bolstered the "RNA world" hypothesis that life emerged out of RNA that could catalyze the formation of more RNA.

But RNA is also incredibly complex and sensitive, and some experts are skeptical that it could have arisen spontaneously under the harsh conditions of the prebiotic world. Moreover, both RNA molecules and proteins must take the form of long, folded chains to do their catalytic work, and the early environment would seemingly have prevented strings of either nucleic acids or amino acids from getting long enough.

Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough

Reply to Article

Mark All as Read

Mark All as Unread

The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
(1)
  • (Score: 0, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @03:46PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @03:46PM (#596832)

    I just want to point out that this is a really nice article to see, even if there really isn't much to say.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @03:57PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @03:57PM (#596838)

      Now, you've begun the process of cluttering up the meaningful discourse.

      Next time, just sit their quietly with that dumb look on your face.

      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:11PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:11PM (#596920)

        Next time, just sit their quietly with that dumb look on your face.

        pot: kettle

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @03:54PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @03:54PM (#596836)

    When one looks at a massive skyscraper, one sees an incredibly complex system of interdependent parts. It seems inconceivable that it was ever built; it must have popped into existence, fully formed by the miracle of an Intelligent Designer.

    Of course, as we know, that is not the case.

    Rather, the skyscraper was built up slowly, using all manner of intermediate scaffolding and temporary counterweights, which at some point were dismantled, carted off to a landfill, and utterly forgotten.

    The same story is true of biological systems; when people scoff at the notion of something as complex as even a single cell having "spontaneously" emerged from the bubbling broth of a primordial soup, just remind them of the possibility of long-lost, long-forgotten, intermediate support structures.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @08:58PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @08:58PM (#596978)

      Yeah, I think that the point people miss is that even if it is EXTREMELY unlikely, 5 billion years is a REALLY long time.

      I mean, look how bad the odds are for powerball and there are winners all the time.

  • (Score: 0, Troll) by realDonaldTrump on Tuesday November 14, @05:42PM (1 child)

    by realDonaldTrump (6614) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday November 14, @05:42PM (#596877) Homepage Journal

    I heard about abiogenesis before. I heard nobody really knows how it works. Why it's happening, even whether it's happening. Nobody knows. But people are starting to find out. And some, I assume, will find out how to use it to speed up creation of oil & gas. Let me tell you, we could use the energy. We could really use it. Because our economy has been growing TREMENDOUSLY. So we need all the energy we can get. #MAGA 🇺🇸

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:29PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, @07:29PM (#596934)

      How else do you think a bunch of hot air could develop into a "precedential" candidate?

(1)