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Water and the Origins of Life

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Living organisms are highly complex chemical systems that exploit a small constellation of universally conserved metabolites. The chemical unity of these metabolites provides compelling evidence that a simple set of predisposed reactions predicated the appearance of life on Earth. Conversely, traditional prebiotic chemistry has produced highly complex mixtures that bear little resemblance to the core metabolites of life. The complexity of prebiotic chemistry until recently had suggested that elucidating life’s origins was an insurmountable task, but prebiotic systems chemistry is now providing unprecedented scope to explore the origins of life and an exciting new perspective on a 4 billion-year-old problem. At the heart of this new systems approach is an understanding that individual classes of metabolites cannot be considered in isolation if the chemical origin of life on Earth is to be successfully elucidated. In this talk several recent advances that suggest that nucleotides and proteinogenic peptides are predisposed chemical structures that can be facilely synthesised in water will be presented [1-4].

References: [1] Powner et al Nature 2009, 459, 239. [2] Islam et al. Nat. Chem. 2017, 9, 584. [3] Canavelli et al. Nature 2019, 571, 546. [4] Foden et al. Science, 2020, 370, 865.

This talk is part of the LCLU Seminars series.

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