Self-selection of dissipative assemblies driven by primitive chemical reaction networks

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2018-05-23

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-04488-y

Affiliations: 3

Authors: 5

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Research Highlight

On the origins of life

© Stanislaw Pytel/ Getty

© Stanislaw Pytel/ Getty

Scientists have shown how the first biomolecules may have been stabilized, leading to a better understanding of how life began on Earth.

Proteins, the building blocks of life, are formed from biomolecules that are chemically unstable and require energy to prevent them from dissociating. In living organisms, cells provide this energy, but the Earth’s primordial soup did not contain cells to stabilize the first biomolecules.

Now, a team in Germany, including researchers from the Technical University of Munich, has demonstrated how phase separation, in which two immiscible liquids form in a solution, can stabilize simple biomolecules long enough to form proteins.

After reacting carboxylic acid molecules with carbodiimides to produce carboxylic acid anhydrides, the researchers discovered that some of the anhydrides formed as droplets in water, which prevented them from dissociating and allowed them to survive longer.

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  1. Nature Communications 9, 2044 (2018). doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-04488-y
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Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany 1