Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 257–270 | Cite as

Nucleic Acids Bind to Nanoparticulate iron (II) Monosulphide in Aqueous Solutions

  • Bryan HattonEmail author
  • David Rickard
Prebiotic Chemistry


In the hydrothermal FeS-world origin of life scenarios nucleic acids are suggested to bind to iron (II) monosulphide precipitated from the reaction between hydrothermal sulphidic vent solutions and iron-bearing oceanic water. In lower temperature systems, the first precipitate from this process is nanoparticulate, metastable FeSm with a mackinawite structure. Although the interactions between bulk crystalline iron sulphide minerals and nucleic acids have been reported, their reaction with nanoparticulate FeSm has not previously been investigated. We investigated the binding of different nucleic acids, and their constituents, to freshly precipitated, nanoparticulate FeSm. The degree to which the organic molecules interacted with FeSm is chromosomal DNA > RNA > oligomeric DNA > deoxadenosine monophosphate ≈ deoxyadenosine ≈ adenine. Although we found that FeSm does not fluoresce within the visible spectrum and there is no quantum confinement effect seen in the absorption, the mechanism of linkage of the FeSm to these biomolecules appears to be primarily electrostatic and similar to that found for the attachment of ZnS quantum dots. The results of a preliminary study of similar reactions with nanoparticulate CuS further supported the suggestion that the interaction mechanism was generic for nanoparticulate transition metal sulphides. In terms of the FeS-world hypothesis, the results of this study further support the idea that sulphide minerals precipitated at hydrothermal vents interact with biomolecules and could have assisted in the formation and polymerisation of nucleic acids.


DNA Nanoparticles Origin of life Adsorption Iron sulphide UV/Vis spectroscopy 



This work was funded with a Charles Wright Scholarship to BH from Cardiff University and NERC grant NRE/L/S/2000/00611 to DR. We thank Professor A. Weightman for assistance in the DNA experimentation. The fluorescence measurements were made by E.E. Chong in the School of Physics, Cardiff University. Tony Oldroyd oversaw much of the technical work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth and Ocean SciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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