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Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere

Alexandra Whicher, Eloi Camprubi, Silvana Pinna, Barry Herschy, Nick Lane
Metabolism is primed through the formation of thioesters via acetyl CoA and the phosphorylation of substrates by ATP. Prebiotic equivalents such as methyl thioacetate and acetyl phosphate have been proposed to catalyse analogous reactions at the origin of life, but their propensity to hydrolyse challenges this view. Here we show that acetyl phosphate (AcP) can be synthesised in water within minutes from thioacetate (but not methyl thioacetate) under ambient conditions. AcP is stable over hours, depending on temperature, pH and cation content, giving it an ideal poise between stability and reactivity...
March 3, 2018: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Saúl A Villafañe-Barajas, João Paulo T Baú, María Colín-García, Alicia Negrón-Mendoza, Alejandro Heredia-Barbero, Teresa Pi-Puig, Dimas A M Zaia
Any proposed model of Earth's primitive environments requires a combination of geochemical variables. Many experiments are prepared in aqueous solutions and in the presence of minerals. However, most sorption experiments are performed in distilled water, and just a few in seawater analogues, mostly inconsistent with a representative primitive ocean model. Therefore, it is necessary to perform experiments that consider the composition and concentration of dissolved salts in the early ocean to understand how these variables could have affected the absorption of organic molecules into minerals...
February 1, 2018: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Mohammad P Jamshidi, Melissa J MacDonald, André M Beauchemin
The low concentration issue is a fundamental challenge when it comes to prebiotic chemistry, as macromolecular systems need to be assembled via intermolecular reactions, and this is inherently difficult in dilute solutions. This is especially true when the reactions are challenging, and reactions that proceeded more rapidly could have dictated chemical evolution. Herein we establish that formaldehyde is capable of catalyzing, via temporary intramolecularity, a challenging reaction in water at low concentrations, thus providing an alternative to other approaches that can either lead to higher concentrations or higher effective molarities...
December 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Marie-Paule Bassez
In this article, anoxic and oxic hydrolyses of rocks containing Fe (II) Mg-silicates and Fe (II)-monosulfides are analyzed at 25 °C and 250-350 °C. A table of the products is drawn. It is shown that magnetite and hydrogen can be produced during low-temperature (25 °C) anoxic hydrolysis/oxidation of ferrous silicates and during high-temperature (250 °C) anoxic hydrolysis/oxidation of ferrous monosulfides. The high-T (350 °C) anoxic hydrolysis of ferrous silicates leads mainly to ferric oxides/hydroxides such as the hydroxide ferric trihydroxide, the oxide hydroxide goethite/lepidocrocite and the oxide hematite, and to Fe(III)-phyllosilicates...
December 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
David A Baum, Kalin Vetsigian
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
December 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Sabrina Scherer, Eva Wollrab, Luca Codutti, Teresa Carlomagno, Stefan Gomes da Costa, Andreas Volkmer, Amela Bronja, Oliver J Schmitz, Albrecht Ott
We have analyzed the chemical variety obtained by Miller-Urey-type experiments using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) spectroscopy, gas chromatography followed by mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and two-dimensional gas chromatography followed by mass spectrometry (GCxGC/MS). In the course of a running Miller-Urey-type experiment, a hydrophobic organic layer emerged besides the hydrophilic aqueous phase and the gaseous phase that were initially present...
December 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
David A Baum, Kalin Vetsigian
Most experimental work on the origin of life has focused on either characterizing the chemical synthesis of particular biochemicals and their precursors or on designing simple chemical systems that manifest life-like properties such as self-propagation or adaptive evolution. Here we propose a new class of experiments, analogous to artificial ecosystem selection, where we select for spontaneously forming self-propagating chemical assemblages in the lab and then seek evidence of a response to that selection as a key indicator that life-like chemical systems have arisen...
December 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Hai Qiao, Na Hu, Jin Bai, Lili Ren, Qing Liu, Liaoqiong Fang, Zhibiao Wang
Protocells are believed to consist of a lipid membrane and encapsulated nucleic acid. As the lipid membrane is impermeable to macromolecules like nucleic acids, the processes by which nucleic acids become encapsulated inside lipid membrane compartments are still unknown. In this paper, a freeze-thaw method was modified and applied to giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in mixed solution resulting in the efficient encapsulation of 6.4 kb plasmid DNA and similar length linear DNA into GUVs...
December 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Erdmann Weronika, Kaczmarek Łukasz
To survive exposure to space conditions, organisms should have certain characteristics including a high tolerance for freezing, radiation and desiccation. The organisms with the best chance for survival under such conditions are extremophiles, like some species of Bacteria and Archea, Rotifera, several species of Nematoda, some of the arthropods and Tardigrada (water bears). There is no denying that tardigrades are one of the toughest animals on our planet and are the most unique in the extremophiles group...
December 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Punam Dalai, Hannes Lukas Pleyer, Henry Strasdeit, Stefan Fox
On the Hadean-Early Archean Earth, the first islands must have provided hot and dry environments for abiotically formed organic molecules. The heat sources, mainly volcanism and meteorite impacts, were also available on Mars during the Noachian period. In recent work simulating this scenario, we have shown that neat glycine forms a black, sparingly water-soluble polymer ("thermomelanoid") when dry-heated at 200 °C under pure nitrogen. The present study explores whether relevant minerals and mineral mixtures can change this thermal behavior...
December 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Xianlong Zhang, Ge Tian, Jing Gao, Mei Han, Rui Su, Yanxiang Wang, Shouhua Feng
Submarine hydrothermal vents are generally considered as the likely habitats for the origin and evolution of early life on Earth. In recent years, a novel hydrothermal system in Archean subseafloor has been proposed. In this model, highly alkaline and high temperature hydrothermal fluids were generated in basalt-hosted hydrothermal vents, where H2 and CO2 could be abundantly provided. These extreme conditions could have played an irreplaceable role in the early evolution of life. Nevertheless, sufficient information has not yet been obtained for the abiotic synthesis of amino acids, which are indispensable components of life, at high temperature and alkaline condition...
December 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
R L Mickol, T A Kral
The low pressure at the surface of Mars (average: 6 mbar) is one potentially biocidal factor that any extant life on the planet would need to endure. Near subsurface life, while shielded from ultraviolet radiation, would also be exposed to this low pressure environment, as the atmospheric gas-phase pressure increases very gradually with depth. Few studies have focused on low pressure as inhibitory to the growth or survival of organisms. However, recent work has uncovered a potential constraint to bacterial growth below 25 mbar...
December 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Fabrizio Dirri, Ernesto Palomba, Andrea Longobardo, Emiliano Zampetti
Piezoelectric Crystal Microbalances (PCM's) are widely used to study the chemical processes involving volatile compounds in any environment, such as condensation process. Since PCM's are miniaturized sensor, they are very suitable for planetary in situ missions, where can be used to detect and to measure the mass amount of astrobiologically significant compounds, such as water and organics. This work focuses on the realization and testing of a new experimental setup, able to characterize volatiles which can be found in a planetary environment...
December 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Miryam Palacios-Pérez, Fernando Andrade-Díaz, Marco V José
Herein we outline a plausible proteome, encoded by assuming a primeval RNY genetic code. We unveil the primeval phenotype by using only the RNA genotype; it means that we recovered the most ancestral proteome, mostly made of the 8 amino acids encoded by RNY triplets. By looking at those fragments, it is noticeable that they are positioned, not at catalytic sites, but in the cofactor binding sites. It implies that the stabilization of a molecule appeared long before its catalytic activity, and therefore the Ur-proteome comprised a set of proteins modules that corresponded to Cofactor Stabilizing Binding Sites (CSBSs), which we call the primitive bindome...
November 10, 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Konstantin K Konstantinov, Alisa F Konstantinova
Chiral symmetry breaking in complex chemical systems with a large number of amino acids and a large number of similar reactions was considered. It was shown that effective averaging over similar reaction channels may result in very weak effective enantioselectivity of forward reactions, which does not allow most of the known models to result in chiral symmetry breaking during formation of life on Earth. Models with simple and catalytic synthesis of a single amino acid, formation of peptides up to length five, and sedimentation of insoluble pair of substances were considered...
November 8, 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Gabriel S Zamudio, Marco V José
In this work, we explicitly consider the evolution of the Standard Genetic Code (SGC) by assuming two evolutionary stages, to wit, the primeval RNY code and two intermediate codes in between. We used network theory and graph theory to measure the connectivity of each phenotypic graph. The connectivity values are compared to the values of the codes under different randomization scenarios. An error-correcting optimal code is one in which the algebraic connectivity is minimized. We show that the SGC is optimal in regard to its robustness and error-tolerance when compared to all random codes under different assumptions...
October 29, 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Satoshi Inaba
Formaldehyde is abundant in the universe and one of the fundamental molecules for life. Hydrothermal vents produce a substantial amount of hydrogen molecules by serpentinization and promote reductive reactions of single carbon compounds. The abundance of formaldehyde is expected to be low due to the high Gibbs free energy in hydrothermal vents. We consider two competing formation pathways of formaldehyde: (1) the reduction of CO by H2 and (2) the reduction of HCOOH by H2 to form a methanediol, followed by the dehydration of the methanediol...
September 5, 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Thomas C Keane
Laboratory studies provide a fundamental understanding of photochemical processes in planetary atmospheres. Photochemical reactions taking place on giant planets like Jupiter and possibly comets and the interstellar medium are the subject of this research. Reaction pathways are proposed for the coupled photochemistry of NH3 (ammonia) and C2H2 (acetylene) within the context Jupiter's atmosphere. We then extend the discussion to the Great Red Spot, Extra-Solar Giant Planets, Comets and Interstellar Organic Synthesis...
September 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Toratane Munegumi, Naoya Tanikawa
Asparagine and aspartic acid might have mutually transformed in the primordial hydrosphere of the earth, if ammonia and aspartic acid had existed in equilibrium. These amino acids seem to contribute to polypeptides, while the simple amino acids glycine and alanine easily form cyclic dipeptides and do not achieve long peptide chains. Asparagine-comprising dipeptides contribute some kinds of activation forms of dipeptides because these can polymerize faster than asparagine only. The new finding of polypeptide formation suggests a pathway of sequential polypeptides to evolve a diversity of polypeptides...
September 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Nicolle E B Zellner
If properly interpreted, the impact record of the Moon, Earth's nearest neighbour, can be used to gain insights into how the Earth has been influenced by impacting events since its formation ~4.5 billion years (Ga) ago. However, the nature and timing of the lunar impactors - and indeed the lunar impact record itself - are not well understood. Of particular interest are the ages of lunar impact basins and what they tell us about the proposed "lunar cataclysm" and/or the late heavy bombardment (LHB), and how this impact episode may have affected early life on Earth or other planets...
September 2017: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
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