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The chemical origin of life refers to the conditions that might have existed and therefore promoted the first replicating life forms. It considers the physical and chemical reactions that could have led to early replicator molecules.
Phosphorylation of (pre)biological molecules in water has been a long-sought goal in prebiotic chemistry. Now, it has been demonstrated that diamidophosphate phosphorylates nucleosides, amino acids and glycerol/fatty acids in aqueous medium, while simultaneously leading to higher-order structures such as oligonucleotides, peptides and liposomes in the same reaction mixture.
Few studies have explored the effect of a changing environment on artificial chemical evolution. Here, the authors develop an evolutionary platform that alters the physical environment of droplet protocells, showing that a population of simple chemical species can adapt to its surroundings, in analogy to natural evolution.
Experiments are presented that indicate that methane can be produced abiotically on Mars through the photocatalytic reaction of CO2, in a process called methanogenesis. Methane can then be shocked (through impacts) to form RNA nucleobases and glycine.
The reverse Krebs cycle is a potential primordial anabolic pathway central to biochemistry. Here, the authors show that more than half of the cycle can be promoted by metals and metal ions without enzymes.
The synthesis of biopolymers in living cells is perfected by complex machinery, however this was not the case on early Earth. Here the authors show the role of non-enzymatic replication in the enrichment of certain products within prebiotically relevant mixtures.
There are many unanswered questions regarding how the biomolecules and biomechanical processes that define life came to be. A collection of Articles in this issue show how intermediates in RNA synthesis might have formed and how the initiation and evolution of RNA replication might have occurred.
Early forms of life could have started by molecular compounds coming together under conditions dense enough to promote reactions. But how might these droplets have undergone what we now know as cell division? The answer may be simpler than we think.