Navigation Links
ASU researcher may have discovered key to life before its origin on Earth
Date:2/28/2008

TEMPE, ARIZ. -- An important discovery has been made with respect to the mystery of handedness in biomolecules. Researchers led by Sandra Pizzarello, a research professor at Arizona State University, found that some of the possible abiotic precursors to the origin of life on Earth have been shown to carry handedness in a larger number than previously thought.

The work is being published in this weeks Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The paper is titled, Molecular asymmetry in extraterrestrial chemistry: Insights from a pristine meteorite, and is co-authored by Pizzarello and Yongsong Huang and Marcelo Alexandre, of Brown University.

Pizzarello, in ASUs Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, worked with Huang and Alexandre in studying the organic materials of a special group of meteorites that contain among a variety of compounds, amino acids that have identical counterparts in terrestrial biomolecules. These meteorites are fragments of asteroids that are about the same age as the solar system (roughly 4.5 billion years.)

Scientists have long known that most compounds in living things exist in mirror-image forms. The two forms are like hands; one is a mirror reflection of the other. They are different, cannot be superimposed, yet identical in their parts.

When scientists synthesize these molecules in the laboratory, half of a sample turns out to be left-handed and the other half right-handed. But amino acids, which are the building blocks of terrestrial proteins, are all left-handed, while the sugars of DNA and RNA are right-handed. The mystery as to why this is the case, parallels in many of its queries those that surround the origin of life, said Pizzarello.

Years ago Pizzarello and ASU professor emeritus John Cronin analyzed amino acids from the Murchison meteorite (which landed in Australia in 1969) that were unknown on Earth, hence solving the problem of any contamination. They discovered a preponderance of left-handed amino acids over their right-handed form.

The findings of Cronin and Pizzarello are probably the first demonstration that there may be natural processes in the cosmos that generate a preferred amino acid handedness, Jeffrey Bada of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, Calif., said at the time.

The new PNAS work was made possible by the finding in Antarctica of an exceptionally pristine meteorite. Antarctic ices are good curators of meteorites. After a meteorite falls -- and meteorites have been falling throughout the history of Earth -- it is quickly covered by snow and buried in the ice. Because these ices are in constant motion, when they come to a mountain, they will flow over the hill and bring meteorites to the surface.

Thanks to the pristine nature of this meteorite, we were able to demonstrate that other extraterrestrial amino acids carry the left-handed excesses in meteorites and, above all, that these excesses appear to signify that their precursor molecules, the aldehydes, also carried such excesses, Pizzarello said. In other words, a molecular trait that defines life seems to have broader distribution as well as a long cosmic lineage.

This study may provide an important clue to the origin of molecular asymmetry, added Brown associate professor and co-author Huang.


'/>"/>

Contact: Skip Derra
skip.derra@asu.edu
480-965-4823
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Electronic structure of DNA revealed for 1st time by Hebrew University and collaborating researchers
2. Researchers offer new theory for dogfish and skate population outburst on Georges Bank
3. UCLA researchers solve decade-old mystery
4. Rats on islands disrupt ecosystems from land to sea, researchers find
5. Iowa State researchers help piece together the corn genomes first draft
6. U-M researchers release most detailed global study of genetic variation
7. LSU researchers challenge analyses on sustainability of Gulf fisheries
8. Researchers probe a DNA repair enzyme
9. Managing uncertainty important in ecological balance: ASU researcher
10. Oregon researchers study widespread areas of low oxygen off northwest coast
11. Stanford researchers say living corals thousands of years old hold clues to past climate changes
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/24/2017)... -- Research and Markets has announced the addition of ... - Industry Forecast to 2025" report to their offering. ... The Global Biometric Vehicle ... around 15.1% over the next decade to reach approximately $1,580 million ... estimates and forecasts for all the given segments on global as ...
(Date:3/22/2017)... 21, 2017 Vigilant Solutions , a ... enforcement agencies, announced today the appointment of retired FBI ... public safety business development. Mr. Sheridan brings ... including a focus on the aviation transportation sector, to ... position, Mr. Sheridan served as the Aviation Liaison Agent ...
(Date:3/9/2017)... , Australia , March 9, ... study data at the prestigious World Lung Imaging Workshop ... Andreas Fouras , was invited to deliver the ... pulmonary medicine. This globally recognised event brings together leaders ... share the latest developments in lung imaging. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/20/2017)... -- Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY ) ... prevention of migraine at the American Academy of Neurology ... 2017, in Boston . ... safety and patient outcomes data for galcanezumab in patients ... monthly migraine headache days among patients with episodic migraine. ...
(Date:4/20/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... April 20, 2017 , ... ... to the scientific and clinical research community’s growing body of knowledge during its ... in the Gracie Theatre and the adjacent Darling Atrium. During the event, undergraduates, ...
(Date:4/20/2017)... April 20, 2017 /PRNewswire/ - Prometic Life Sciences Inc. (TSX: PLI) ... at the International Liver Congress ("ILC") 2017 of the European ... Amsterdam on the positive effects of PBI-4050 ... of obesity and metabolic syndrome. ... According to Dr. Lyne Gagnon, Vice-President of R&D Pre-clinical ...
(Date:4/20/2017)... ... April 20, 2017 , ... Parallel6™ , the leader in mClinical™ ... that they were named one of the 2017 Top 10 eClinical Trial Management ... the pharmaceutical industry. , “We take pride in honoring Parallel6 as one of the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: