Such efficiency is so rare in prebiotic chemistry, and was so unexpected in the glyoxylate dihydroxyfumarate experiments, that the scientists were leery at first of their results. "We had to prove it by repeating the experiments many times," said Sagi, but the results held.
"Prebiotic reactions are usually pretty messy, so when we saw how clean this was we were really pleasantly surprised," said Krishnamurthy.
Interestingly, during the course of the work, Sagi and Krishnamurthy discovered DHF can react with itself to produce a new compounds never before documented, which the group reported separately late last year.
The Rest of the Story
Though the new research soundly proves the plausibility of one of the facets of the glyoxylate scenario, the chemistry involved is only one of three key series of reactions researchers will have to identify in order to complete a viable path from a primordial soup to life's building blocks.
While glyoxylate is a plausible prebiotic component, there's not yet a known prebiotic pathway to DHF, so the Krishnamurthy team is already working to identify possibilities.
A third critical conversion would have to occur after production of ketoses. Right now, the only known paths for the conversion of ketoses to ribose and other critical sugars are transformations by living organisms. Whether and how such conversion might have proceeded before life arose remains an open research question.
|Contact: Mika Ono|
Scripps Research Institute