Scientists find potential 'missing link' in chemistry that led to life on Earth November 6, 2017 Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image! Credit: CC0 Public Domain Chemists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found a compound that may have been a crucial factor in the origins of life on Earth. Origins-of-life researchers have hypothesized that a chemical reaction called phosphorylation may have been crucial for the assembly of three key ingredients in early life forms: short strands of nucleotides to store genetic information, short chains of amino acids (peptides) to do the main work of cells, and lipids to form encapsulating structures such as cell walls. Yet, no one has ever found a phosphorylating agent that was plausibly present on early Earth and could have produced these three classes of molecules side-by-side under the same realistic conditions. TSRI chemists have now identified just such a compound: diamidophosphate (DAP). "We suggest a phosphorylation chemistry that could have given rise, all in the same place, to oligonucleotides, oligopeptides, and the cell-like structures to enclose them," said study senior author Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, associate professor of chemistry at TSRI. "That in turn would have allowed other chemistries that were not possible before, potentially leading to the first simple, cell-based living entities." Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-11-scientists-potential-link-chemistry-life.html#jCp the paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/nchem.2878 Phosphorylation, oligomerization and self-assembly in water under potential prebiotic conditions Abstract Prebiotic phosphorylation of (pre)biological substrates under aqueous conditions is a critical step in the origins of life. Previous investigations have had limited success and/or require unique environments that are incompatible with subsequent generation of the corresponding oligomers or higher-order structures. Here, we demonstrate that diamidophosphate (DAP)—a plausible prebiotic agent produced from trimetaphosphate—efficiently (amido)phosphorylates a wide variety of (pre)biological building blocks (nucleosides/tides, amino acids and lipid precursors) under aqueous (solution/paste) conditions, without the need for a condensing agent. Significantly, higher-order structures (oligonucleotides, peptides and liposomes) are formed under the same phosphorylation reaction conditions. This plausible prebiotic phosphorylation process under similar reaction conditions could enable the systems chemistry of the three classes of (pre)biologically relevant molecules and their oligomers, in a single-pot aqueous environment.