A key chemical for all life probably influenced its origin

A chemical compound essential for all living beings has been synthesized in a laboratory under conditions comparable to those of the early Earth, suggesting that it may have influenced the origin of life.

This is the conclusion of a new study led by researchers at University College London (UCL), published in the journal Science.

The compound pantethene is the active fragment of coenzyme A. It is vital to metabolism, the chemical processes that sustain life.

Previous studies failed to effectively synthesize pantethene, suggesting that it was absent at the origin of life.

In the new study, the research team created the compound in water at room temperature using molecules made from hydrogen cyanide, which was likely abundant on the early Earth.

Once formed, the researchers said, it is easy to imagine how pantethene would have aided in the chemical reactions that led to everything from simple protein precursors and RNA molecules to the first living organisms, which are thought to have occurred 4 billion years ago. Had happened before.

This study challenges the view of some researchers in the field that water is too destructive for the origin of life and that life probably originated in ponds that dried up periodically.

The reactions that produced pantethene were driven by energy-rich molecules called aminonitriles, which are closely related chemically to amino acids, proteins and the building blocks of life.

This new study is further evidence that the basic structures of biology, the primary molecules from which biology is built, are predisposed to be formed through nitrile chemistry.

The ease with which a variety of biological molecules can be created using nitriles has led me to believe that there was an ‘RNA world’, rather than there being life before molecules such as RNA, and before life began. The basic molecules of biology emerged. ,

While the paper focuses solely on the chemistry, the research team said the reactions they demonstrated could have occurred in ponds or lakes of water on the early Earth (but unlikely in the oceans, as the concentrations of the chemicals were likely too high). Will be more).

The research team will analyze how these molecules come together – for example, how the chemistry of pantein interacts with the chemistry of RNA, peptides and lipids – to produce chemicals that differentiate different classes of molecules. Cannot produce separately.

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