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Understanding the origins-of-life using prebiotic chemistry

Oct. 23, 2017

How did life evolve from individual molecules? Scientists have been trying to find answers to this question for centuries. Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology presented a workflow that closely mimic the conditions at the beginning of life to study how secondary functional structures, such as peptides, arise from a mixture of simple molecules.

Chemical evolution theories suggest that amino acid condensation plays a crucial role in the evolvement of peptide and ancient peptides are build with both amino acids and α-hydroxyl acids. By exposing a mixture of three α-amino and one α-hydroxy acids to repeated hot-dry/cool-wet cycles over 4 days, hundreds of proto-peptide sequences were detected using mass-spectrometry (MS)-based techniques. Importantly, this study indicated that each cycle increased the complexity of peptides significantly and the incorporation of each amino or α-hydoxy acids into peptides were not random. The diversity of peptides resulted from just four amino or α-hydoxy acids suggested the unlimited potential of using this workflow with more amino acids to uncover the origin of life.

Jay G. Forsythe et al. Surveying the sequence diversity of model prebiotic peptides by mass spectrometry. PNAS (2017). DOI:  10.1073/pnas.1711631114

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