Formation of the Building Blocks of Life

Stanley L. Miller and Antonio Lazcano

in Life's Origin

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780520233904
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928701 | DOI:
Formation of the Building Blocks of Life

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This chapter focuses on the role of building-block molecules or monomers on the emergence of life. It describes the prebiotic synthesis of amino acids, sugars, purines, and pyrimidines under conditions relevant to the prebiotic Earth. The formation of amino acids and hydroxy acids was the outcome of a particular set of organic chemical reactions called Strecker-like synthesis that involved aqueous phase interactions among highly reactive intermediates. The results demonstrate that both the amino acids and the hydroxy acids can be synthesized in a simulated primitive ocean even in highly diluted concentrations of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) and aldehyde. The synthesis of sugar-base nucleosides is difficult to achieve under truly prebiotic conditions. Thus, ribose-containing nucleosides are unlikely to have been components of the earliest prebiotic informational macromolecules.

Keywords: building-block molecules; monomers; prebiotic synthesis; amino acids; sugars; purines; pyrimidines; hydroxy acids; Strecker-like synthesis; ribose

Chapter.  10603 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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