Nucleobases on the Primitive Earth: Their Sources and Stabilities
Nucleobases are nitrogen heterocycles that are key structural components of biological nucleic acids. Some theories for the origins of life suggest a role for environmentally supplied organic compounds, including nucleobases, as part of a primordial RNA or pre-RNA world. Over the last 65 years, many potentially prebiotic synthetic mechanisms have been experimentally demonstrated for nucleobases, and their presence in extraterrestrial materials has been extensively verified, suggesting some of these are valid explanations for how the environment produces them. However, the abundance of nucleobases in primitive environments would depend on the balance of the rates of their environmental synthesis and decomposition. The literature regarding chemical aspects of these questions is briefly reviewed here.
This work was partially supported by a JSPS KAKENHI Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas “Hadean Bioscience,” grant number JP26106003. This project was also supported by the ELSI Origins Network (EON), which is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.
- Allentoft ME, Collins M, Harker D, Haile J, Oskam CL, Hale ML, Campos PF, Samaniego JA, Gilbert MTP, Willerslev E, Zhang G, Scofield RP, Holdaway RN, Bunce M (2012) The half-life of DNA in bone: measuring decay kinetics in 158 dated fossils. Proc R Soc B 279(1748):4724–4733. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.1745CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Bertinchamps AJ, Ahnström G, Hüttermann J, Cadet J, Köhnlein W, Coquerelle T, Teoule R, Cramp WA, Ehrenberg A, Elliott JP (2011) Effects of ionizing radiation on DNA: physical, chemical and biological aspects. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
- Boldissar S, de Vries MS (2018) How nature covers its bases. Phys Chem Chem Phys 20:9701–9716Google Scholar
- Cody GD, Heying E, Alexander CMO, Nittler LR, Kilcoyne ALD, Sandford SA, Stroud RM (2011) Establishing a molecular relationship between chondritic and cometary organic solids. Proc Natl Acad SciGoogle Scholar
- Draganić IG, Draganić ZD, Adloff JP (1990) Radiation and radioactivity on Earth and beyond. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FLGoogle Scholar
- Gilbert W (1986) Origin of life: The RNA world. Nature 319Google Scholar
- Krissansen-Totton J, Arney GN, Catling DC (2018) Constraining the climate and ocean pH of the early Earth with a geological carbon cycle model. Proc Natl Acad Sci 115(16):201721296Google Scholar
- Martins Z, Botta O, Fogel ML, Sephton MA, Glavin DP, Watson JS, Dworkin JP, Schwartz AW, Ehrenfreund P (2009) Extraterrestrial nucleobases in the Murchison meteorite. Orig Life Evol Biosph 39:214–214Google Scholar
- Mason SF (1991) Chemical evolution: origin of the elements, molecules, and living systems. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Pearce BK, Pudritz RE, Semenov DA, Henning TK (2017) Origin of the RNA world: the fate of nucleobases in warm little ponds. Proc Natl Acad Sci, p 201710339Google Scholar
- Schneider C, Becker S, Okamura H, Crisp A, Amatov T, Stadlmeier M, Carell T (2018) Prebiotic methylations and carbamoylations generate non-canonical RNA nucleosides as molecular fossils of an early Earth. Angew ChemGoogle Scholar
- Woese CR (1967) The genetic code: the molecular basis for genetic expression. Harper & Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Zubay G (1993) To what extent do biochemical pathways mimic prebiotic pathways? Chemtracts Biochem Mol Biol 4:317–323Google Scholar