Scientists Just Found a Vital Missing Link in The Origins of Life on Earth [sciencealert.com]
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 [sciencealert.com] of biology's origins, debate continues to rage over which process kicked off others in order to get to life. Was RNA was followed by protein structures? Did metabolism spark the whole shebang? And what about the lipids [wikipedia.org]?
No matter what school of abiogenesis [wikipedia.org] 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 [scripps.edu].
Enter diamidophosphate [chemspider.com] (DAP). Combined with imidazole acting as a catalyst, DAP could have bridged the critical gap from early compounds such as uridine [wikipedia.org] and cytidine [wikipedia.org]. That might not seem overly exciting, but phosphorylating nucleosides [wikipedia.org] like these is a crucial step on the road to building the chains of RNA that could serve as the first primitive genes.
Phosphorylation, oligomerization and self-assembly in water under potential prebiotic conditions [nature.com] (DOI: 10.1038/nchem.2878) (DX [doi.org])
Related: Life's First Molecule Was Protein, Not RNA, New Model Suggests [soylentnews.org]