How did catalytic organic polymers appear on prebiotic land? Answering this fundamental question will unlock key concepts in the origin of life.
A team of scientists at Tohoku University recently found a possible environment for the reaction that produces catalyzed organic polymers. To do this, they dehydrated solutions of amino acids containing boric acid and found that boric acid stimulates polypeptide synthesis under both neutral and acidic conditions. The longest peptides formed in the experiments were the 39 monomer-long glycine polypeptides under neutral conditions.
Details of their research have been published in the journal Communication chemistry on May 11, 2023.
Previous studies indicated that highly alkaline evaporative environments served as a site for ancient protein synthesis, resulting in the production of up to 20 monomer-long glycine peptides. Neutral conditions were thought to be the worst case regarding peptide synthesis.
Boron-containing minerals have been discovered in abundance in some of the oldest sedimentary-origin rocks found on Earth, dating back 3.8 billion years. These results indicate that the coastal regions of ancient microcontinents and boric acid-rich islands spontaneously collected amino acids, forming polypeptides and proto-proteins.
“The formation of polypeptides in neutral environments has important meanings in the chemical evolution of the origin of life,” says lead author Yoshihiro Furukawa, associate professor at Tohoku University.
While RNAs are rather stable under neutral conditions, they are very unstable under alkaline conditions. Boron is known to assist in many steps in abiotic ribonucleotide synthesis.
“Neutral, boron-rich evaporative environments serve as an ideal setting for formations and interactions between the two basic polymers on the prebiotic floor,” says Furukawa.
This research group is now looking for the amino acids that were incorporated into the initial peptides in this environment.
Yuki Sumi et al., Boron-assisted abiotic polypeptide synthesis, Communication chemistry (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s42004-023-00885-7
the quote: Researchers Discover How Primordial Proteins Formed on Prebiotic Earth (2023, May 11), Retrieved May 11, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-uncover-primordial-proteins-prebiotic-earth.html
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