It is a well-known fact that all of the physical, chemical and biological factors contributed towards the origin of life. In a new find, a group of scientists at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has found out a chemical compound that might have played a crucial role in the origins of life on Earth.

Previously, Origins –of-Life researchers have hypothesised that a chemical reaction known as phosphorylation might have been the main driver for the assembly of three key ingredients in early life forms: short strands of nucleotides to store genetic information, short chains of amino acids (peptides) to do the main work of cells, and lipids to form encapsulating structures such as cell walls. But no one had experimentally proved or found out a phosphorylating agent yet. And finally, the TSRI chemists have managed to identify such a compound named diamidophosphate.

Lead author of the study Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, associate professor of chemistry at TSRI, said that they have suggested that a phosphorylation chemistry could have given rise, all in the same place, to oligonucleotides, oligopeptides, and the cell-like structures to enclose them and in turn this process would have allowed other chemistries that were not possible before, potentially leading to the first simple, cell-based living entities.

The latest study is a part of an ongoing effort by scientists around the world to find credible routes for the grand epic journey from pre-biological chemistry to cell-based bio-chemistry. Krishnamurthy said that it has been hard to imagine how these very different processes could have combined n the same place to give rise to first primitive life forms. He and his research team first showed that DAP could phosphorylate each of the four nucleoside building blocks of RNA in water or a paste-like state under a wide range of temperatures and other conditions.

Also, DAP when mixed with the catalyst imidazole, led to the appearance of short, RNA chains of these phosphorylated building blocks. Gain, when DAP mixes with water and imidazole, it efficiently phosphorylates the lipid building blocks glycerol and fatty acids. Also, scientists found out that DAP in the water at room temperature also phosphorylated the amino acids glycine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid, and then helped link these molecules into short peptide chains. Krishnamurthy explained that with DAP and water and these mild conditions, these three important classes of pre-biological molecules could be brought together and be transformed, creating the opportunity for them to interact together. He further added that DAP’s phosphorylation chemistry also closely resembles what is seen in the reactions at the heart of every cell’s metabolic cycle.


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