Transition metal catalysts led to origin of life?

Washington, Sept 4 (ANI): Scientists have proposed that a third type of catalyst, apart from biochemicals-such as amino acids and nucleotides and biological catalysts (proteins or ribozymes), was responsible for origin of life on Earth.

According to Harold Morowitz of George Mason University (GMU), Vijayasarathy Srinivasan of GMU, and Eric Smith of the Santa Fe Institute, molecular structures involving transition metal elements (iron, copper, nickel, etc.) and ligands (small organic molecules) could have catalyzed the synthesis of basic biochemicals (monomers) that acted as building blocks for more complex molecules, leading ultimately to the origin of life.

"The idea has emerged from a study of the periodic table. We strongly feel that unless you're able to see how life comes about in some formal chemical way, you're never really going to solve the problem," Morowitz said.

Such experiments could reveal what kinds of catalytic reactions took place to lay the foundations for life. The hypothesis also allows for the possibility that life could have arisen more than once.

"Life could have originated multiples times, and, if we find life elsewhere in the universe, it could be very similar to the life we know here because it will be based on the same transition metals and ligands," Morowitz said.

"It's a conjecture at the moment, but it could become a formal scientific core for the emergence of life."

The paper appears in the current issue of The Biological Bulletin. (ANI)

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