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How did chemical constituents essential to life arise on primitive Earth?
Date:10/30/2007

Experiments show that simple molecules can combine chemically rather than biologically to form the building blocks of DNA, the key component of all life forms. These processes might have taken place on primitive earth, but how they occur is an unsolved puzzle.

Chemists at the University of Georgia have now proposed the first detailed, feasible mechanism to explain how adenine, one of the four building blocks of DNA, might be built up from the combination of five cyanide molecules. The investigation is based on extensive quantum chemical computations over several years.

Just where these biomolecules originated isnt known, said Paul von Ragu Schleyer, Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry at the University of Georgia. One can only speculate. They could have formed from smaller molecules present on primitive Earth, either very slowly over millions of years or rapidly before the Earth cooled down. Asteroids may have brought them from outer space, but how did biomolecules form there"

The newly proposed mechanism for the formation of adenine gives a clear picture of how it could have become one of the building blocks essential for the formation of DNA. The research was published today in the print version of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. Schleyers coworkers were Ph. D. candidate Debjani Roy, the first author of the paper, and Katayoun Najafian, his former student from Iran.

DNA is the nucleic acid blueprint of life that is passed on from generation to generation. First isolated in 1869 from the pus of discarded surgical bandages by Friedrich Miescher, a Swiss doctor, DNAs double helix structure was solved by Watson and Crick in 1953. DNA is shaped somewhat like a twisted ladder with the rungs anchored by matching pairs of only four bases: adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine.

The UGA chemists focused on adenine because of its relative prevalence on Earth and its formation in the dark in from simple
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Contact: Kim Osborne
kosborne@uga.edu
706-583-0913
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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