2009 Annual Science Report
University of Hawaii, Manoa Reporting | JUL 2008 – AUG 2009
Mineral-Catalyzed Coupling of Amino Acids to Polypeptides
Enzymes carry out chemical functions within our body, and are produced from long chains of amino acids called polypeptides. Today, the manufacture of these long chains is made possible within our bodies by large 'machinery’ known as polymerases. However, these are vastly complex, and were almost certainly not present in the early stages of life. One question we are trying to answer here is whether or not it is possible to produce long chains of polypeptides under certain conditions which may be relevant to the origin of life, such as on the surface of a mineral.
The first part of this work is to be carried out in HeFei china, where work will be done using the synchrotron to generate tunable UV light which can be used to selectively ionize our products. The project is basically about the feasibility of minerals helping to catalyze the formation of 'peptide bonds’ which link together amino acids – in our bodies, this process is carried out by ribosome’s, which are very complex, and would not have been present until much later after life already began to evolve. So we need to know how complex life may have been up until this point. The mineral nanoparticles have already been purchased both here, and in china. We also plan to condense them and see if radiation can help this process. Theoretical studies have been carried out which suggest that this process is feasible.
PROJECT MEMBERS:Ralf Kaiser
RELATED OBJECTIVES:Objective 3.1
Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts
Origins and evolution of functional biomolecules
Biosignatures to be sought in Solar System materials
Biosignatures to be sought in nearby planetary systems