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Origins 2011 – Abstracts

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O6b: Contributed Orals – Prebiotic Chemistry (continued)
Time: Thursday, 07/Jul/2011: 5:15pm - 6:30pm
Session Chair: Yufen Zhao
Location: Auditorium Pasteur


Towards Peptide Nucleic Acid (PNA) based Translation and Replication Systems

Peter Nielsen

University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Peptide nucleic acids are proposed candidates for very early prebiotic information molecules or at least useful models for such. We now present the first simple PNA based translation mimic and replication systems. Specifically we demonstrate hybridization directed transfer of an ester bound amino acid (phenylalanine) from one PNA strand to an amino acid on another PNA strand . Furthermore, we present a four (+2) component PNA oligomer template ligation system showing replicative properties.

Progress in Studies on the RNA World

James P. Ferris, Prakash C. Joshi, Michael F. Aldersley

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, United States of America

The most popular hypothesis for the origin of life on Earth is the RNA world. RNA can catalyze reactions and store genetic information. We observed that the clay mineral montmorillonite catalyzes the conversion of activated monomers of RNA to polymers as long as 50mers. Not all montmorillonites are catalytic. In a study of the extent of catalysis we observed that in twenty montmorillonite samples five were excellent catalysts, five were good catalysts and ten had little or no catalyst activity.

Spontaneous generation of RNA in water

Giovanna Costanzo

CNR Istituto di Biologia e Patologia Molecolari, Rome, Italy

We have shown that formamide provides an unique chemical frame affording all the monomeric components necessary for the formation of nucleic polymers such as nucleic bases and acyclonucleosides and favours both phosphorylation and transphosphorylation. Nucleotide phosphorylation and RNA oligomerization take place in water in non-enzymatic abiotic conditions. Mechanisms of abiotic RNA chain extension and ligation based on base-pairing and base-stacking interactions were also observed.

On the origin of life: natural selection in the protocell population

Jack W. Szostak1, Katarzyna Adamala1,2

1Harvard/MGH, United States of America; 2University Roma Tre, Italy

We created protocell model system capable of developing adaptative changes in its structure due to a prebiotically plausible reaction. We studied reaction catalyzed by simple peptide catalyst, Ser-His: a condensation of two amino acid derivatives, yielding product dipeptide. Protocell vesicles containing this product can spontaneously grow on the expense of other protocells. We hope that further studies of this system will give more information about the beginning of the Darwinian evolution.

Emergence of phosphorus-based energy currencies & coupled chemical cycles on the early earth

Terence Kee, Alexander Stirk, James Cutsforth, Karl Kaye, David Bryant

University of Leeds, United Kingdom

One of the most significant problems in the field of abiogenesis concerns the emergence of P-based energy currencies such as ATP. We have recently reported that pyrophosphite [H2P2O52-; PPi(III)] has both strong prebiotic provenance and the potential to drive valuable reactions such as amino acid coupling to peptides without pep-tidic catalysis. Here we describe these preliminary studies and disicuss how coupled currency cycles may have emerged upon the early earth.