Simons Foundation Supported Research May Have Found Compound Essential to Formation of Life on Earth
Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla announced Monday that they may have found a compound essential to the formation of life on earth.
Their work was based on a hypothesis that a chemical reaction called phosphorylation may have been crucial for the assembly of three key ingredients in early life forms — short strands of nucleotides to store genetic information, short chains of amino acids known as peptides to do the main work of cells, and lipids to form encapsulating structures such as cell walls.
However, no one has previously found a substance that was plausibly present on early Earth that could result in phosphorylation to produce the three classes of molecules side-by-side under the same realistic conditions, according to TSRI.
In a study published in the journal Nature Chemistry, TSRI chemists said that diamidophosphate, commonly known to scientists as DAP, could have been present in Earth’s early days and responsible for phosphorylation.
“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,” said study senior author Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, associate professor of chemistry at TSRI. “That in turn would have allowed other chemistries that were not possible before, potentially leading to the first simple, cell-based living entities.”
Previous theories centered on different phosphorylation agents for each process...