Chemical compound crucial to origin of life discovered

For the first time, scientists have identified a compound called diamidophosphate (DAP) that can phosphorylate each of the four building blocks of RNA under a wide range of conditions.
By Jackie Flores | Nov 08, 2017
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered a chemical compound that may have been critical to the origins of life on Earth.

Researchers studying the origins of life think a chemical reaction called phosphorylation may have been essential to the formation of three key ingredients to early life on Earth. These are short strands of nucleotides capable of storing genetic information, short chains of peptides to support cell metabolism, and lipids to form structures, such as cell walls.

But no one has ever found such a compound until now.

In a study described in the journal Nature Chemistry, the chemists at TSRI have identified the compound diamidophosphate (DAP) that can phosphorylate each of the four building blocks of RNA under a wide range of conditions.

"We suggest a phosphorylation chemistry that could have given rise, all in the same place, to oligoncleotides, oligopeptides, and the cell-like structures to enclose them," said senior author Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, an associate professor of chemistry at TSRI, in a statement. "That in turn would have allowed other chemistries that were not possible before, potentially leading to the first simple, cell-based living entities."

When the researchers added the catalyst imidazole a simple organic compound that could have been present on ancient Earth they found that DAP led to the creation of short, RNA-like chains of phosphorylated building blocks.

"It reminds me of the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, who waves a wand and 'poof,' 'poof,' 'poof,' everything is transformed into something more complex and interesting," said Krishnamurthy.

---

Comments
We are dedicated to maintaining a respectful community that actively engages in lively discussions about news stories and blog posts. Please keep the following in mind when writing your comments.