Magazine article Science News

Dramatizing Life's Chemical Prelude

Magazine article Science News

Dramatizing Life's Chemical Prelude

Article excerpt

Dramatizing life's chemical prelude

The complex biochemical dance that continually unfolds in living cells must originated somewhere. According to the standard evolutionary picture, that somewhere was a primordial soup stocked with the kinds of small molecular building blocks, or monomers, that linked into nucleic acids (RNA and DNA) and proteins -- the long polymeric molecules central to contemporary life forms. But it's a long way from a brew of unconnected monomers to an interdependent set of intra-cellular polymers that pull off feats such as replication, metabolism and differentiation into specific cell types.

In cells, proteins assist in the replication of nucleic acids, which themselves orchestrate the assembly of proteins. "Neither can be produced without the other," notes J. Doyne Farmer, a complex-systems theorist affiliated with Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Santa Fe Institute, both in New Mexico. Chemists have known for decades that amino acids -- the monomers that link into proteins -- spontaneously form under laboratory simulations of the primordial soup. But these monomers fail to reliably link into long polymers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.