New study sheds light on origins of life on Earth – BIOENGINEER.ORG

New Brunswick, NJ (January 14, 2022) – Addressing one of the deepest unanswered questions in biology, a team led by Rutgers discovered protein structures that could be responsible for the origin of life in the primordial soup of ancient Earth.

New Brunswick, NJ (January 14, 2022) – Addressing one of the deepest unanswered questions in biology, a team led by Rutgers discovered protein structures that could be responsible for the origin of life in the primordial soup of ancient Earth.

The study appears in a journal Advances in science.

Researchers have investigated how primitive life could have originated on our planet from simple, inanimate materials. They asked what properties define life as we know it and concluded that all living things would be needed to collect and use energy, from sources like the Sun or hydrothermal sources.

In molecular terms, this would mean that the ability to mix electrons was paramount to life. Since the best elements for electron transfer are metals (we mean standard electrical wires), and most biological activities are carried out by proteins, the researchers decided to investigate the combination of these two elements, ie proteins that bind metals.

They compared all existing metal-binding protein structures to establish any common features, assuming that these common features were present in ancestral proteins and were diverse and transmitted to create the range of proteins we see today.

The evolution of protein structures involves understanding how new folds originated from pre-existing ones, so researchers devised a computational method that found that the vast majority of currently existing metal-binding proteins are somewhat similar regardless of the type of metal they bind to, the organism to which they bind . derived from or function assigned to the protein as a whole.

“We saw that the nuclei of existing metal-binding proteins are indeed similar, although the proteins themselves may not be,” said study leader Yana Bromberg, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. “We have also seen that these metal cores are often composed of repeated substructures, such as LEGO blocks. Interestingly, these blocks were also found in other protein regions, not only in metal-binding nuclei, and in many other proteins not considered in our study. Our observation suggests that the rearrangement of these small building blocks may have had one or a small number of common ancestors and led to a whole range of proteins and their functions that are currently available – that is, life as we know it. “

“We have very little information about how life originated on this planet, and our work contributes to a previously inaccessible explanation,” said Bromberg, whose research focuses on deciphering the DNA blueprint of a living molecular machine. “This explanation could also potentially contribute to our search for life on other planets and planetary bodies. Our finding of specific structural building blocks is also likely relevant to synthetic biology efforts, where scientists want to reconstruct specifically active proteins. ”

The NASA-funded study also included researchers from the University of Buenos Aires.

###

Broadcasting interviews: Rutgers University has TV and radio broadcast quality studies available for live live conversations or recorded interviews with Rutgers experts. Contact John Cramer at [email protected]

ABOUT RUTGERS — NEW BRUNSWICK
Rutgers University – New Brunswick is where Rutgers, New Jersey State University, began more than 250 years ago. Listed among the world’s 60 best universities, Rutgers’s flagship is a leading public research institution and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. It has an internationally recognized faculty, 12 diploma schools and the most diverse student body of the Big Ten conference.


Leave a Comment