The origin of life on Earth contains a remarkable paradox: without water there is no life—but most biomolecules form poorly or not at all in water. However, before the first true cell is formed, it must have formed spontaneously. Aridity and volcanic minerality can resolve the discrepancy, report Hayley Boynzan and John Yen of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In their publication in the journal Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres. They describe how amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, spontaneously combine to form long chains thanks to these two factors.
This process is a reaction in which small building blocks combine to form large molecules by separating water. However, such a reaction can also occur in the opposite direction – the more water there is in the environment, the stronger it is: larger molecules bind water and thus break it into smaller components. All large biomolecules are formed from their smaller components by the elimination of water. And this is how these substances are formed – in addition to proteins, nucleic acids RNA and DNA, as well as carbohydrates made up of sugars – are formed. bad in the water.
The mechanism proposed by Boigenzahn and Yin is not the first attempt to circumvent this problem in the origin of life through systematic dehydration. However, Boigenzahn and Yin postulate a two-step chemical process in which the first step of a reaction sets the stage for the next step. It is critical that other conditions do not remain the same – in addition to dehydration, the pH value also changes. The reaction begins with a solution of amino acids, in the experiment it was glycine, which was heated to 90 degrees in an alkaline solution with metaphosphate. On the one hand, this resulted in a mixture of two glycine molecules – and an acid, which neutralized the previous alkaline solution.
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