Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
. 24/7 Space News .




EARLY EARTH
Clay may have been birthplace of life
by Staff Writers
Ithaca NY (SPX) Nov 07, 2013


Scientists previously suggested that tiny balloons of fat or polymers might have served as precursors of cell membranes. Clay is a promising possibility because biomolecules tend to attach to its surface, and theorists have shown that cytoplasm - the interior environment of a cell - behaves much like a hydrogel.

Clay, a seemingly infertile blend of minerals, might have been the birthplace of life on Earth. Or at least of the complex biochemicals that make life possible, Cornell University biological engineers report in the Nov. 7 online issue of the journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature Publishing.

"We propose that in early geological history clay hydrogel provided a confinement function for biomolecules and biochemical reactions," said Dan Luo, professor of biological and environmental engineering and a member of the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science.

In simulated ancient seawater, clay forms a hydrogel - a mass of microscopic spaces capable of soaking up liquids like a sponge. Over billions of years, chemicals confined in those spaces could have carried out the complex reactions that formed proteins, DNA and eventually all the machinery that makes a living cell work. Clay hydrogels could have confined and protected those chemical processes until the membrane that surrounds living cells developed.

To further test the idea, the Luo group has demonstrated protein synthesis in a clay hydrogel. The researchers previously used synthetic hydrogels as a "cell-free" medium for protein production. Fill the spongy material with DNA, amino acids, the right enzymes and a few bits of cellular machinery and you can make the proteins for which the DNA encodes, just as you might in a vat of cells.

To make the process useful for producing large quantities of proteins, as in drug manufacturing, you need a lot of hydrogel, so the researchers set out to find a cheaper way to make it. Postdoctoral researcher Dayong Yang noticed that clay formed a hydrogel. Why consider clay? "It's dirt cheap," said Luo. Better yet, it turned out unexpectedly that using clay enhanced protein production.

But then it occurred to the researchers that what they had discovered might answer a long-standing question about how biomolecules evolved. Experiments by the late Carl Sagan of Cornell and others have shown that amino acids and other biomolecules could have been formed in primordial oceans, drawing energy from lightning or volcanic vents. But in the vast ocean, how could these molecules come together often enough to assemble into more complex structures, and what protected them from the harsh environment?

Scientists previously suggested that tiny balloons of fat or polymers might have served as precursors of cell membranes. Clay is a promising possibility because biomolecules tend to attach to its surface, and theorists have shown that cytoplasm - the interior environment of a cell - behaves much like a hydrogel. And, Luo said, a clay hydrogel better protects its contents from damaging enzymes (called "nucleases") that might dismantle DNA and other biomolecules.

As further evidence, geological history shows that clay first appeared - as silicates leached from rocks - just at the time biomolecules began to form into protocells - cell-like structures, but incomplete - and eventually membrane-enclosed cells. The geological events matched nicely with biological events.

How these biological machines evolved remains to be explained, Luo said. For now his research group is working to understand why a clay hydrogel works so well, with an eye to practical applications in cell-free protein production.

Luo collaborated with professor Max Lu of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland in Australia. The work was performed at the Cornell Center for Materials Research Shared Facilities, supported by the National Science Foundation.

Study

.


Related Links
Cornell University
Explore The Early Earth at TerraDaily.com






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





EARLY EARTH
Global warming led to dwarfism in mammals twice
Ann Arbor MI (SPX) Nov 06, 2013
Mammal body size decreased significantly during at least two ancient global warming events, a new finding that suggests a similar outcome is possible in response to human-caused climate change, according to a University of Michigan paleontologist and his colleagues. Researchers have known for years that mammals such as primates and the groups that include horses and deer became much smalle ... read more


EARLY EARTH
Moon mission yields clues to face of 'man in the moon'

Shanghai-built lunar rover set for lunar landing

Crowdfunded Lunar Spacecraft Reaches Funding Milestone

LADEE Continues To Settle Into Operational Lunar Orbit

EARLY EARTH
Multiple Missions Will Get China Moving On Mars

Mythbusting India's Mars Mission

India reaches for Mars on prestige space mission

India mission to Mars blasts off successfully

EARLY EARTH
NASA Selects Research Teams for New Virtual Institute

From North Pole to the stars: Russia's thrill-seeking tycoon

A look at recent tech sector IPOs

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Comes to Life

EARLY EARTH
China shows off moon rover model before space launch

China providing space training

China launches experimental satellite Shijian-16

China Moon Rover A New Opportunity To Explore Our Nearest Neighbor

EARLY EARTH
Russia launches Sochi Olympic torch into space

Spaceflight Joins with NanoRacks to Deploy Satellites from the ISS

Crew Completes Preparations for Soyuz Move

Mission accomplished for Europe's cargo freighter

EARLY EARTH
Kazakhstan say Baikonur launch site may be open to Western countries

ESA Swarm launch postponed

Europe's fifth ATV for launch by Arianespace begins its pre-flight checkout at the Spaceport

ILS Proton Launches Sirius FM-6 Satellite

EARLY EARTH
NASA Kepler Results Usher in a New Era of Astronomy

Astronomers answer key question: How common are habitable planets?

One in five Sun-like stars may have Earth-like planets

Mystery World Baffles Astronomers

EARLY EARTH
NASA Technologists Embrace Laser Instrument Challenge

High Energy Prairie View A and M Interns Collaborate with NASA Goddard on Radiation Effects Research

Less Toxic Metabolites, More Chemical Product

A noble yet simple way to synthesize new metal-free electrocatalysts for oxygen reduction reaction




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement