Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Origin Of Life: The Search For The First Genetic Material

Date:
November 17, 2006
Source:
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Summary:
A team led by Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy and Albert Eschenmoser at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, is researching how molecules look that can replicate and multiply themselves -- the first genetic material.

How did life originate on Earth? Until now, there have only been theories to answer this question. One of the fundamental steps leading to living organisms is the development of molecules that can replicate and multiply themselves—the first genetic material. A team led by Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy and Albert Eschenmoser at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, is researching how this molecule might have looked.

Related Articles


Our own genetic material is DNA. Its backbone is made of sugar and phosphate building blocks. Like a strand of pearls, the four “letters” of the genetic code are arranged along this backbone. Two complementary strands of DNA form a double helix because the purine bases adenine (A) and guanine (G) form specific pairs with the pyrimidine bases thymine (T) and cytosine (C), attaching to each other through two or three docking sites. This type of structure could also be the basis for the first genetic material. However, it is doubtful that its backbone consisted of sugar and phosphate; it may have consisted of peptide-like building blocks. Amino acids, from which peptides are made, were already present in the “primordial soup”. However, the bases may also have looked different in their primitive form.

To find the right track in searching for the origins of life, the team is trying to put together groups of potential building blocks from which primitive molecular information transmitters could have been made. The researchers have taken a pragmatic approach to their experiments. Compounds that they test do not need to fulfill specific chemical criteria; instead, they must pass their “genetic information” on to subsequent generations just as simply as the genetic molecules we know today—and their formation must have been possible under prebiotic conditions. Experiments with molecules related to the usual pyrimidine bases (pyrimidine is a six-membered aromatic ring containing four carbon and two nitrogen atoms), among others, seemed a good place to start. The team thus tried compounds with a triazine core (a six-membered aromatic ring made of three carbon and three nitrogen atoms) or aminopyridine core (which has an additional nitrogen- and hydrogen-containing side group). Imitating the structures of the normal bases, the researchers equipped these with different arrangements of nitrogen- and hydrogen- and/or oxygen-containing side groups.

Unlike the usual bases, these components can easily be attached to many different types of backbone, for example, a backbone made of dipeptides or other peptide-like molecules. In this way, the researchers did indeed obtain molecules that could form specific base pairs not only with each other, but also with complementary RNA and DNA strands. Interestingly, only one sufficiently strong pair was formed within both the triazine and aminopyridine families; however, for a four-letter system analogous to the ACGT code, two such strongly binding pairs are necessary.

“Our results indicate that the structure of the bases, rather than the structure of the backbone, was the critical factor in the development of our modern genetic material,” says Krishnamurthy. Many chain molecules are able to adopt a suitable spatial structure, but only a few bases can enter into the necessary specific pairing. In this, our alternative bases are clearly inferior to the usual Watson–Crick bases. “Based on our observations, we are beginning to understand why the natural bases are optimal with regard to the function they perform.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. "Origin Of Life: The Search For The First Genetic Material." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 November 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061117121623.htm>.
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. (2006, November 17). Origin Of Life: The Search For The First Genetic Material. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061117121623.htm
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. "Origin Of Life: The Search For The First Genetic Material." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061117121623.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano. Researchers are restoring and studying self-playing pianos and the music rolls that recorded major composers performing their own work. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) A group of scientists looked at the genetics behind the domestication of the horse and showed how human manipulation changed horses' DNA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) A collection of rare manuscripts by composers Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet are due to go on sale at auction on December 17. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 15, 2014) Researchers are looking to the past to gain a clearer picture of what the future holds for ice in the Arctic. A project to analyse and digitize ship logs dating back to the 1850's aims to lengthen the timeline of recorded ice data. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins