The chemicals showed the reactions that led to "the birth of life" on Earth

The chemicals showed the reactions that led to "the birth of life" on Earth

The chemicals from the Scripps Research Institute showed that amino acids and nucleic acids, the main building elements of proteins and DNA, respectively, did not require unusual conditions or rare elements; the chemical reactions described in the article in Nature Chemistry could occur under normal conditions, and only substances available during that period were required for their initiation.

Today, in the cells, amino acids are produced from the predecessors, known as α-kettoic acids, using both nitrogen and specialized proteins called enzymes. In previous works, scientists have shown that α-kettoic acids may have existed at the beginning of Earth's history, but it was assumed that prior to the emergence of the cell life, amino acids would have been formed from completely different predecessors, aldehydes that did not need enzymes.

In their work, chemists have shown that cyanide can successfully replace enzymes as a catalyst for reactions that produce amino acids. Because they knew that some form of nitrogen would be needed, they added ammonia, a form of nitrogen that should have been present on the early Earth. Then they discovered the third key ingredient, carbon dioxide, through samples and errors.

It turned out to be easier than we imagined. If you mix only kettoic acid, cyanide and ammonia, nothing will happen, but once you add carbon dioxide, even trace amounts, the reaction accelerates.

Moreover, researchers have found that the by-product of the same chemical reaction is the orotate, the predecessor of the nucleotides that form the RNA and DNA, so that all the essential components necessary for the creation of life could be generated in large quantities as a result of a single set of chemical reactions.

Scientists believe that since the synthesis of amino acids in organic cells is almost identical to the responses offered, except for the use of enzymes instead of cyanide, it is these processes that have given birth to life on Earth.

New reactions not only give scientists an idea of the chemistry of the early Earth, they will also be useful in industrial production, for example to create biomolecules with individual labelling of low-cost raw materials.