If classic monster films and old science experiments are to be believed, life begins with a spark. Not everyone is…
If classic monster films and old science experiments are to be believed, life begins with a spark.
Not everyone is convinced of this kind of history of origin, so the search continues for energy sources that can transform a prebiotic soup into a life-generating dish. Perhaps the secret ingredient is no more shocking than a pinch of salt.
A new study led by scientists from the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan has shown attention to common old sodium chloride as a potential lead for the chemical energy required for early biochemistry.  Sodium chloride consists of a ratio of 1: 1 of sodium and chloride ions, and in this case it is chloride ions that may be responsible.
Life’s origins on earth have fascinated our interest since forever.
Science has done quite a good job of explaining how life has developed into such a certain diversity. We can use explanations as natural choices to rewind the clock just so far.
At some point, we must jump from a chaotic swirl of organic chemicals into incompletely replicating codes that can qualify as the first glimmer of life; The first ecosystem, commonly referred to as the RNA world hypothesis.
Unfortunately, the whole hypothesis involves some chicken and egg problems.
Life is dependent on absorbing energy from a source ̵
1; whether it is in the form of chemical bonds or sunlight – and uses it to reorganize compounds. Without an energy source, we could not accelerate the production of basic chemicals responsible for forming primitive genetic codes.
While all modern organisms inherit the necessary cellular machines, the first metabolic leap must be a more ubiquitous source. Something easier was not found in life, but in the environment.
In the early 1950s, two chemists named Stanley Miller and Harold Urey generally created a number of amino acids from simpler materials that demonstrated for the first time that the base materials for proteins did not necessarily require a living source.
They provided a tension to their medium, provided that early earth would have had a generous stream of power in the form of lightning strikes.
Although this process precipitated amino acids, RNA consists of another alphabet of basic chemicals. The preparation of how they were generated also had an energy problem.
Last year, a team of researchers suggested plasma from the shock waves that stray out of the asteroid impact could have given sufficient ground to transform organic building blocks into formamide – a parent molecule for the four RNA letters.
Part of the problem of dramatic events like asteroid strikes and lightning bolts is that they do a fair job to explain the production of a small handful of key actors. Meanwhile, there are a lot of other chemicals that may have had supporting roles, which also need a back story.
This new study goes back a little further to include the story of a broader casting that is also considered crucial to the life-generating cascade of reactions. One such example is a compound called cyanamide.
Previous work from other researchers traces pathways from compounds such as hydrogen cyanide to the basic RNA start blocks in the presence of slightly more than UV light. But the generation of cyanamide was required, and it was a chemical that no one had reported.
“Our goal was therefore to develop a reaction network that produces simple sugars and cyanamide and thereby many important precursors, especially for RNA synthesis in” one pot “, the researchers write in their report.
After analyzing the reaction chains as not driven by UV light, but the more intense gamma radiation, they saw that the cyanamide contents climbed relative to a rather surprising reagent – chloride ions.
Of the two ions contained in salt, it is usually sodium that gets all the attention and its chloride component which rarely participates in reactions, tends to be overlooked.
It seems in this case, irradiated by gamma rays, releases the chlorides, giving the mixture the energy required to form cyanamide.
In some ways this makes it more complicated (and less exciting than lightning and shock waves.
This research was published in ChemistrySelect .