From chemical reaction to living cells – what kicked off the development of early life on earth?

phys.org | 2/9/2018 | Staff
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Chemists based in Munich have demonstrated that the alternation in wet and dry conditions on early Earth could have been enough to kick off the prebiotic synthesis of the RNA nucleosides found in all domains of life.

While the understanding of the conditions on early Earth grows, the development of RNA and DNA around 4 billion years ago is still shrouded in mystery. What was the origin of the chemical structures that form the subunits of what we now know as hereditary molecules RNA and DNA? These molecules then went on to link into long chains that not only encoded information but reproduced and passed it on: how did all that start? The search is on to know more about the chemical evolution that preceded the first biological cells.

Research - Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet - LMU - Munich - Germany

Research carried out at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich, Germany, partly supported through the EU's EPiR project, has been working on this fascinating gap in our knowledge and the team's latest findings are now published in Nature. By exposing simple chemicals to the kinds of fluctuating physical conditions that would have prevailed in geothermally active areas of our planet billions of years ago, such as those caused by volcanic activity, researchers have shown that nucleosides can be formed in a continuous process.

They started with a mixture of the elements that have been shown in the past to form simple precursors in probiotic conditions: formic acid, sodium nitrite, acetic acid and a few nitrogen-containing compounds. The reaction mixture also contained iron and nickel, both of which are found in abundance in the Earth's crust. They then subjected the lot to fluctuations of temperature, pH and humidity to mimic early conditions, such as those due to strongly shifting seasonal temperatures.

Team - Work - Year - Simpler - Precursor

The team built on work carried out last year by not only beginning with simpler precursor...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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