Nucleobases on the Primitive Earth: Their Sources and Stabilities

  • H. James CleavesIIEmail author
Part of the Nucleic Acids and Molecular Biology book series (NUCLEIC, volume 35)


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.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earth-Life Science InstituteTokyo Institute of TechnologyTokyoJapan
  2. 2.The Institute for Advanced StudyPrincetonUSA
  3. 3.Blue Marble Space Institute of ScienceWashington, DCUSA
  4. 4.NSF-NASA Center for Chemical EvolutionGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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