New chemical reactions could help explain the origin of life from non-living molecules

“The origin of life” is a topic that scientists have invested a lot of time and resources on to better understand. How life emerged from non-living molecules continues to be a much-debated topic. But now, scientists at Scripps Research may have found something to shed light on. Scientists have discovered a series of chemical reactions that can produce amino acids and nucleic acids – the building blocks of proteins and DNA – using cyanide, ammonia and carbon dioxide.

What makes this such an important discovery? Compounds present in the reactions can form the building blocks of the protein are also substances that are believed to be common from very early times The earththe research published in a magazine Natural chemistry explain.

Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, lead author of the paper published July 28, said of the discovery, “We have come up with a new model to explain this shift from prebiotic to biotic. chemistry. ” Krishnamurthy, associate professor of chemistry at Scripps Research, added, “We think the type of reaction we have described is probably what might have happened on the early Earth.”

The discovery came just a few months after Krishnamurthy’s group shows how cyanide could enable chemical reactions that convert water and prebiotic molecules into the basic organic compounds needed to support life. The attempt was successful and worked over a wide pH range at room temperature. Following this development, scientists wondered if similar conditions would allow the creation of Amino Acidsare much more complex molecules that “make proteins in all known living cells”, study explain.

After cyanide, the team continued Nitrogen, is an essential compound in chemical reactions. So they added ammonia, a form of nitrogen present on the early Earth. After a series of trial and error, they discovered carbon dioxide is the third component of the mixture that can form amino acids.

“If you just mix the keto acid, cyanide and ammonia, it just sits there. As soon as you add carbon dioxide, even a small amount, the reaction speeds up,” says Krisnamurthy. “We expected it to be quite difficult to figure this out, and it turned out to be even simpler than we imagined.”

Next, the team will focus on “what kind of chemistry can emerge from this mixture” and whether amino acids can begin to form small proteins.

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