Navigation Links
Discoveries suggest icy cosmic start for amino acids and DNA ingredients
Date:2/28/2013

Using new technology at the telescope and in laboratories, researchers have discovered an important pair of prebiotic molecules in interstellar space. The discoveries indicate that some basic chemicals that are key steps on the way to life may have formed on dusty ice grains floating between the stars.

The scientists used the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia to study a giant cloud of gas some 25,000 light-years from Earth, near the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. The chemicals they found in that cloud include a molecule thought to be a precursor to a key component of DNA and another that may have a role in the formation of the amino acid alanine.

One of the newly-discovered molecules, called cyanomethanimine, is one step in the process that chemists believe produces adenine, one of the four nucleobases that form the "rungs" in the ladder-like structure of DNA. The other molecule, called ethanamine, is thought to play a role in forming alanine, one of the twenty amino acids in the genetic code.

"Finding these molecules in an interstellar gas cloud means that important building blocks for DNA and amino acids can 'seed' newly-formed planets with the chemical precursors for life," said Anthony Remijan, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).

In each case, the newly-discovered interstellar molecules are intermediate stages in multi-step chemical processes leading to the final biological molecule. Details of the processes remain unclear, but the discoveries give new insight on where these processes occur.

Previously, scientists thought such processes took place in the very tenuous gas between the stars. The new discoveries, however, suggest that the chemical formation sequences for these molecules occurred not in gas, but on the surfaces of ice grains in interstellar space.

"We need to do further experiments to better understand how these reactions work, but it could be that some of the first key steps toward biological chemicals occurred on tiny ice grains," Remijan said.

The discoveries were made possible by new technology that speeds the process of identifying the "fingerprints" of cosmic chemicals. Each molecule has a specific set of rotational states that it can assume. When it changes from one state to another, a specific amount of energy is either emitted or absorbed, often as radio waves at specific frequencies that can be observed with the GBT.

New laboratory techniques have allowed astrochemists to measure the characteristic patterns of such radio frequencies for specific molecules. Armed with that information, they then can match that pattern with the data received by the telescope. Laboratories at the University of Virginia and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics measured radio emission from cyanomethanimine and ethanamine, and the frequency patterns from those molecules then were matched to publicly-available data produced by a survey done with the GBT from 2008 to 2011.

A team of undergraduate students participating in a special summer research program for minority students at the University of Virginia (U.Va.) conducted some of the experiments leading to the discovery of cyanomethanimine. The students worked under U.Va. professors Brooks Pate and Ed Murphy, and Remijan. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation, brought students from four universities for summer research experiences. They worked in Pate's astrochemistry laboratory, as well as with the GBT data.

"This is a pretty special discovery and proves that early-career students can do remarkable research," Pate said.

The researchers are reporting their findings in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.


'/>"/>

Contact: Dave Finley
dfinley@nrao.edu
575-835-7302
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Plants cut the mustard for basic discoveries in metabolism
2. USDA funded research leads to key discoveries in the pig genome
3. National herpetology society honors UT Arlington professor for discoveries
4. MU celebrates $5 million partnership for advancing biomedical discoveries
5. 23andMe contributes to genetic discoveries related to male pattern baldness
6. Next-generation sequencing technology opens doors to discoveries
7. Worlds largest release of comprehensive human cancer genome data helps speed discoveries
8. New discoveries about severe malaria
9. Smell and taste experts to discuss new discoveries
10. New discoveries about brain-hand connection sought to improve therapies, treatments, prosthetics
11. Scripps Research discoveries lead to newly approved drug for infant respiratory distress syndrome
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/28/2016)... , April 28, 2016 First quarter 2016: ... up 966% compared with the first quarter of 2015 ... SEK 589.1 M (loss: 18.8) and the operating margin was 40% ... 0.32) Cash flow from operations was SEK 249.9 M ... revenue guidance is unchanged, SEK 7,000-8,500 M. The operating ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... DUBLIN , April 15, 2016 ... of the,  "Global Gait Biometrics Market 2016-2020,"  report ... http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20160330/349511LOGO ) , ,The global gait ... CAGR of 13.98% during the period 2016-2020. ... movement angles, which can be used to compute ...
(Date:3/29/2016)... Florida , March 29, 2016 ... the "Company") LegacyXChange "LEGX" and SelectaDNA/CSI Protect are pleased ... in ink used in a variety of writing instruments, ... Buyers of originally created collectibles from athletes on LegacyXChange ... forensic analysis of the DNA. Bill ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 Houston Methodist ... the Cy-Fair Sports Association to serve as their ... agreement, Houston Methodist Willowbrook will provide sponsorship support, ... connectivity with association coaches, volunteers, athletes and families. ... the Cy-Fair Sports Association and to bring Houston ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Supplyframe, the Industry Network ... Supplyframe Design Lab . Located in Pasadena, Calif., the Design Lab’s mission is ... projects are designed, built and brought to market. , The Design Lab is ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... LONDON , June 23, 2016 ... & Hematology Review, 2016;12(1):22-8 http://doi.org/10.17925/OHR.2016.12.01.22 ... Review , the peer-reviewed journal from touchONCOLOGY, ... the escalating cost of cancer care is placing ... a result of expensive biologic therapies. With the ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 22, 2016  Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN ) ... QB3@953 life sciences incubator to accelerate the development ... laboratory space at QB3@953 was created to help high-potential ... for many early stage organizations - access to laboratory ... Amgen launched two "Amgen Golden Ticket" awards, providing each ...
Breaking Biology Technology: