The drought helped. Scientists closer to understanding the origin of life on Earth
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Research shows that drought and humidity played equally important roles in the origin of life on the planet.
For centuries, scientists have been struggling to unravel the main mystery – how life arose from a multitude of lifeless molecules on Earth. For example, water from the very beginning seemed to be an integral component of the origin of life, while the process of growing some vital components is very negative about getting wet, writes Science Alert.
According to University of Wisconsin-Madison biochemist John Yin, for example, researchers know that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and proteins are essential for life. Since the time of Charles Darwin, the prevailing theory has been that life originated from a certain moist “primordial soup”. However, this theory also makes it difficult to agree on the exact role of water in the origin of the first stable self-reproducing reactions.
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In a new study, University of Wisconsin-Madison chemical engineer Hayley Boygenzan and colleagues reproduced a model of changing from wet to dry environments, which are easily reproduced in nature with tides and cycles of day and night, as well as changes in the weather.
In the course of the study, the scientists combined a number of amino acids that can be easily produced naturally. Scientists believe that as the building blocks of proteins, these units could well play an important role in early forms of biology.
In this experiment, scientists used the amino acid glycine. Then they added trimetaphosphate to it, a molecule that naturally forms in volcanoes. And then this “broth” was flavored with sodium hydroxide (NaOH) to raise its pH.
During the first hour, the scientists observed how glycine formed a molecule of two units – a dimer. The researchers found that this reaction releases protons, which neutralize the pH required for dimerization, thus slowing down the entire process.
In earlier studies, the scientists also found that as the pH of the solution became more and more neutral, the dimers slowly bonded to each other, forming ever longer chains. Curiously, as the solution dried, the reaction rate only increased. The researchers suggest that this may be due to the concentration of molecules approaching each other.
According to Boigenzan, in this way the scientists found that the environment does not have to remain stable throughout all reactions. In fact, they can occur in different environments, provided that the origin of the reaction creates a favorable environment for subsequent steps. Scientists believe that the cycle of transitions from wet to dry conditions can turn the molecule into more complex proteins that will contribute to other chemical reactions that occur in life.
According to scientists, this is far from the first hint that the origin of life could occur on the verge of moisture. In the future, scientists have a long way to go before finally understanding the process of the origin of life on Earth. However, researchers believe that understanding the processes that underlie the creation of life can open the door to new, more powerful technologies based on chemistry.