Chemists at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, have made a discovery that supports a surprising new view of how life originated on our planet. In a study published online on December 15, 2020 in the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, the scientists demonstrated that a simple compound called diamidophosphate (DAP), which was plausibly present on Earth before life arose, could have chemically knitted together tiny DNA building blocks called deoxynucleosides into strands of primordial DNA. The finding is the latest in a series of discoveries, over the past several years, pointing to the possibility that DNA and its close chemical cousin RNA arose together as products of similar chemical reactions, and that the first self-replicating molecules--the first life forms on Earth--were mixes of the two. The discovery may also lead to new practical applications in chemistry and biology, but its main significance is that it addresses the age-old question of how life on Earth first arose. In particular, it paves the way for more extensive studies of how self-replicating DNA-RNA mixes could have evolved and spread on the primordial Earth and ultimately seeded the more mature biology of modern organisms. The Angewandte Chemie article is titled “Prebiotic Phosphorylation and Concomitant Oligomerization of Deoxynucleosides to form DNA.” "This finding is an important step toward the development of a detailed chemical model of how the first life forms originated on Earth," says study senior author Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, PhD, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Scripps Research.
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