Molecules transported to Earth in meteorite impacts, they could become the building blocks of DNA, according to a new study by researchers at the University of York.
The study determined that organic compounds called amino nitriles, the molecular precursors of amino acids, were able to use the molecules present in interstellar ice to activate the formation of the 2-deoxy-D-ribose molecule, DNA spine.
The uncertain origin of DNA
DNA is one of the most important molecules in living systems, however, the origin of 2-deoxy-D-ribose, before life on Earth began, has remained a mystery. According Paul Clarke, from the Chemistry Department of the University of York:
The origin of important biological molecules is one of the fundamental fundamental questions of science: the molecules that form the building blocks of DNA have to come from somewhere; present on Earth when they formed or came from space, hitting the Earth in a meteor shower. Scientists had already shown that there were particular molecules present in space that came to Earth on an ice comet, which made our team in York think about investigating whether they could be used to make one of the building blocks of DNA. That could then mean that a building block of DNA was present before the amino acids.