How life began on earth is possibly one of the toughest questions to answer. But, maybe it wouldn't be anymore as a team of scientists working to replicate the conditions of early earth in modern lab experiments may have found the 'missing link' in understanding how life began.
Researchers have speculated for long that a chemical reaction known as phosphorylation was a crucial step in the arrival of early life forms. The three main ingredients to form life includes strands of nucleotides to store genetic information, chains of amino acids for cell function, and lipids to form cell walls and other structures. These are the basic requirements of all biological structures.
However, scientists never found a phosphorylating chemical agent that would have plausibly been present on early earth and could have produced these 'three classes of molecules side-by-side under the same realistic conditions'.
Chemists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), now, have found one that may have been a crucial factor in the origins of life on earth. TSRI chemists have now identified the compound diamidophosphate (DAP) that could have played this central role.
Study senior author Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, associate professor of chemistry at TSRI and his colleagues have shown that DAP can efficiently phosphorylate a variety of simple sugars and therefore help in constructing phosphorus-containing carbohydrates that would have been involved in the early life forms.
"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 Krishnamurthy.
He further added: "That, in turn, would have allowed other chemistries that were not possible before, potentially leading to the first simple, cell-based living entities."
The study published in Nature Chemistry is a part of an ongoing effort by scientists around the world to find out the routes for the epic journey from- 'pre-biological chemistry to cell-based biochemistry.'
"It reminds me of the fairy godmother in Cinderella, who waves a wand and poof, poof, poof, everything simple is transformed into something more complex and interesting," Krishnamurthy said.