Navigation Links
Clay may have been birthplace of life, new study suggests
Date:11/5/2013

ITHACA, N.Y. Clay, a seemingly infertile blend of minerals, might have been the birthplace of life on Earth. Or at least of the complex biochemicals that make life possible, Cornell University biological engineers report in the Nov. 7 online issue of the journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature Publishing.

"We propose that in early geological history clay hydrogel provided a confinement function for biomolecules and biochemical reactions," said Dan Luo, professor of biological and environmental engineering and a member of the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science.

Study: https://cornell.box.com/clay

In simulated ancient seawater, clay forms a hydrogel a mass of microscopic spaces capable of soaking up liquids like a sponge. Over billions of years, chemicals confined in those spaces could have carried out the complex reactions that formed proteins, DNA and eventually all the machinery that makes a living cell work. Clay hydrogels could have confined and protected those chemical processes until the membrane that surrounds living cells developed.

To further test the idea, the Luo group has demonstrated protein synthesis in a clay hydrogel. The researchers previously used synthetic hydrogels as a "cell-free" medium for protein production. Fill the spongy material with DNA, amino acids, the right enzymes and a few bits of cellular machinery and you can make the proteins for which the DNA encodes, just as you might in a vat of cells.

To make the process useful for producing large quantities of proteins, as in drug manufacturing, you need a lot of hydrogel, so the researchers set out to find a cheaper way to make it. Postdoctoral researcher Dayong Yang noticed that clay formed a hydrogel. Why consider clay? "It's dirt cheap," said Luo. Better yet, it turned out unexpectedly that using clay enhanced protein production.

But then it occurred to the researchers that what they had discovered might answer a long-standing question about how biomolecules evolved. Experiments by the late Carl Sagan of Cornell and others have shown that amino acids and other biomolecules could have been formed in primordial oceans, drawing energy from lightning or volcanic vents. But in the vast ocean, how could these molecules come together often enough to assemble into more complex structures, and what protected them from the harsh environment?

Scientists previously suggested that tiny balloons of fat or polymers might have served as precursors of cell membranes. Clay is a promising possibility because biomolecules tend to attach to its surface, and theorists have shown that cytoplasm the interior environment of a cell behaves much like a hydrogel. And, Luo said, a clay hydrogel better protects its contents from damaging enzymes (called "nucleases") that might dismantle DNA and other biomolecules.

As further evidence, geological history shows that clay first appeared as silicates leached from rocks just at the time biomolecules began to form into protocells cell-like structures, but incomplete and eventually membrane-enclosed cells. The geological events matched nicely with biological events.

How these biological machines evolved remains to be explained, Luo said. For now his research group is working to understand why a clay hydrogel works so well, with an eye to practical applications in cell-free protein production.


'/>"/>

Contact: Syl Kacapyr
vpk6@cornell.edu
607-255-7701
Cornell University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Exercise boosts satisfaction with life, researchers find
2. Elk bones tell stories of life, death, and habitat use at Yellowstone National Park
3. Frankincense is for life, not just for Christmas
4. Website for new open-access journal, eLife, introduced today
5. Study uncovers enzymes double life, critical role in cancer blood supply
6. Core for Life, a new European alliance in biomedical research
7. Genomes for science, genomes for life, and genomes for you and me
8. UF scientists encounter holes in tree of life, push for better data storage
9. Study by UC Santa Barbara researchers suggests that bacteria communicate by touch
10. Law that regulates shark fishery is too liberal: UBC study
11. New study will help protect vulnerable birds from impacts of climate change
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:7/26/2018)... ... July 26, 2018 , ... Shirley Holmlund, ... impact of biofield energy healing treated Vitamin D3 on the strength and health ... levels, over 290% improvement in bone mineralization and over 100% increase in ALP, ...
(Date:7/25/2018)... (PRWEB) , ... July 25, 2018 , ... A pioneering ... and Coalition Duchenne dedicated its annual Mt. Kinabalu climb to raising awareness of the ... journey to finding one starts with patients and families willing to participate in a ...
(Date:7/25/2018)... ... July 25, 2018 , ... There are few things worse than ... hygiene can cause for your pet. , Foul mouth odors can indicate tooth decay ... with heart disease also have dental disease severe enough that needs dental care. Pets ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:7/25/2018)... ... July 25, 2018 , ... Dimitrius Anagnos, an evidence-based healer, ... inflammation and autoimmune disorders. , The preclinical research assessed biomarkers for systemic ... reported:, Over 70% decrease in Interleukin (IL-1ß) expression ...
(Date:7/25/2018)... (PRWEB) , ... July 25, 2018 , ... ... Things (IoT) Systems Innovator, joined the board of the Indiana India Business Council ... and unanimously elected today by the current board of directors, McDonald joins an ...
(Date:7/24/2018)... ... July 24, 2018 , ... On ... highly successful SmartTRAK platform. Not just a pretty face, SmartTRAK 3.0’s latest ... , SmartTRAK is the world’s first online and real-time data portal that ...
(Date:7/22/2018)... ... July 20, 2018 , ... ... industrial automation and IT solutions with 150 employees on both the east and ... Partner Program. Superior Controls met the high criteria for application expertise, operational ...
Breaking Biology Technology: