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Four-billion-year-old chemistry in cells today

Date:
July 24, 2014
Source:
University of East Anglia
Summary:
Parts of the primordial soup in which life arose have been maintained in our cells today according to scientists. Research has revealed how cells in plants, yeast and very likely also in animals still perform ancient reactions thought to have been responsible for the origin of life -- some four billion years ago.

3-D rendering of a mitochondrium.
Credit: © Mopic / Fotolia

Parts of the primordial soup in which life arose have been maintained in our cells today according to scientists at the University of East Anglia.

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Research published today in the Journal of Biological Chemistry reveals how cells in plants, yeast and very likely also in animals still perform ancient reactions thought to have been responsible for the origin of life -- some four billion years ago.

The primordial soup theory suggests that life began in a pond or ocean as a result of the combination of metals, gases from the atmosphere and some form of energy, such as a lightning strike, to make the building blocks of proteins which would then evolve into all species.

The new research shows how small pockets of a cell -- known as mitochondria -- continue to perform similar reactions in our bodies today. These reactions involve iron, sulfur and electro-chemistry and are still important for functions such as respiration in animals and photosynthesis in plants.

Lead researcher Dr Janneke Balk, from UEA's school of Biological Sciences and the John Innes Centre, said: "Cells confine certain bits of dangerous chemistry to specific compartments of the cell.

"For example small pockets of a cell called mitochondria deal with electrochemistry and also with toxic sulfur metabolism. These are very ancient reactions thought to have been important for the origin of life.

"Our research has shown that a toxic sulfur compound is being exported by a mitochondrial transport protein to other parts of the cell. We need sulfur for making iron-sulfur catalysts, again a very ancient chemical process.

"The work shows that parts of the primordial soup in which life arose has been maintained in our cells today, and is in fact harnessed to maintain important biological reactions."

The research was carried out at UEA and JIC in collaboration with Dr Hendrik van Veen at the University of Cambridge. It was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

'A Conserved Mitochondrial ATB-Binding Cassette Transporter Exports Glutathione Polysufide for Cytosolic Metal Cofactor Assembly' is published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of East Anglia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T. A. Schaedler, J. D. Thornton, I. Kruse, M. Schwarzlander, A. J. Meyer, H. W. van Veen, J. Balk. A Conserved Mitochondrial ATP-Binding Cassette Transporter Exports Glutathione Polysulfide for Cytosolic Metal Cofactor Assembly. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2014; DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M114.553438

Cite This Page:

University of East Anglia. "Four-billion-year-old chemistry in cells today." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724094021.htm>.
University of East Anglia. (2014, July 24). Four-billion-year-old chemistry in cells today. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724094021.htm
University of East Anglia. "Four-billion-year-old chemistry in cells today." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724094021.htm (accessed April 1, 2015).

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