Tech & Science Life Could Have Evolved From These Ancient Chemical Reactions

08:05  11 january  2018
08:05  11 january  2018 Source:   Gizmodo Australia

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Fundamentally, your body is just a crazy chemistry experiment. You put in food and oxygen, chemical reactions happen, and out comes energy and poop. But how did these reactions first begin? Some scientists think they have an idea.

What chemicals could have sparked the process before those enzymes evolved ? Plus, scientists would need to find this reaction occurring naturally or prove that the precursors existed on Earth before life did.

  Life Could Have Evolved From These Ancient Chemical Reactions © Provided by Allure Media Pty Ltd Fundamentally, your body is just a crazy chemistry experiment. You put in food and oxygen, chemical reactions happen, and out comes energy and poop. But how did these reactions first begin? Some scientists think they have an idea.

You might remember learning about cellular respiration, the process by which your body turns sugar into energy and carbon dioxide in the mitochondria. Some parts of the body's functioning, like the citric acid cycle (aka Krebs cycle), are highly evolved and difficult to study. But a team of researchers, including a pair of undergraduates, has found an analogue of the citric acid cycle, one that could have existed before life on Earth and that present-day chemical reactions evolved from.

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phosphate – and the findings could fill a gap in our understanding of how complex organic chemistry evolved into life on Earth. One problem with this concept is that RNA can 't do its thing without an energy source, which would require a sequence of chemical reactions we could think of as an early

Scientists constructed this metabolism-like chemical network from non-enzymatic reactions that could have occurred in Earth's 4-billion-year-old oceans. Without enzymes, metabolic reactions would occur too slowly for life as we know it to exist. Although these ancient sediments lacked enzymes

"It's akin to looking at a modern roadway like Route 66," explained Greg Springsteen, a chemistry professor at Furman University in South Carolina. "Wagon trails were templates for Route 66. The twists and turns of the modern pathways tell us about the challenges of the original route."

The citric acid cycle - which, again, is part of how all oxygen-using life on Earth generates energy - takes a chemical called pyruvate through a series of reactions, adding and removing molecules to change its form, produce energy, and charge or produce other molecules to use in other reactions. That's all done with the help of specially evolved enzymes, which make the reactions happen more efficiently. Because this cycle relies on these advanced enzymes, it's hard for scientists to figure out how the cycle originated. What chemicals could have sparked the process before those enzymes evolved?

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Jawed vertebrates had evolved in these primordial oceans before the first amphibious vertebrates made their way This idea is found in the ancient scriptures of almost every culture. Most amino acids, often called "the building blocks of life ", can form via natural chemical reactions unrelated to

But the team of scientists from Furman University (including undergraduates Julia Nelson and Chandler Joel Rhea) and the Scripps Research Institute in California found two chemical reactions in a lab setup that mimicked early Earth conditions that look like pre-life versions of the citric acid cycle, called the "HKG" and the "malonate" cycles.

a close up of a map© Provided by Allure Media Pty Ltd These two cycles are basically like the ruddy wagon tracks that serve a similar, less-efficient purpose to the fancy highway of the citric acid cycle. They're based on similar chemistry, in this case turning a molecule called glyoxylate into carbon dioxide and other molecules in the presence of some electron-stealing agent. Perhaps this chemical reaction occurred on Earth in its early years, and biology tweaked it to become the reaction we see today.

"We think biology," AKA life, "mapped itself onto preexisting chemical pathways on the early Earth," said Springsteen.

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NASA astrobiologists speculate that life may have evolved from chemicals in such locations because the minerals coating the surfaces act as catalysts for chemical reactions . But how can we do that if we don’t know how life started on this planet?”4 Russell has said.

"People always had the idea that the really ancient biosphere was just tenuously clinging on to this It is well known electric fields & discharge products hasten many types of chemical reactions as well as There was time for intelligent life to evolve THEN too! Oxygen or not! What happened to Earth's

This research doesn't say how exactly these two cycles would have turned into the citric acid cycle. Plus, scientists would need to find this reaction occurring naturally or prove that the precursors existed on Earth before life did. Still, these reactions occurred in a neutral environment (not acidic or basic) in a mild temperature, leading the scientists to believe "that there were environments on the early Earth where these reactions were reasonable."

It makes sense, after all - the building blocks of life likely relied on more than just a list of molecules, but the ways these molecules interacted, too. And on the broader scale, origin stories are important. Said Rhea, "It's always good to know your origin to figure out where you're going."

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