Researchers have examined characteristics of the three basic types of polymers required for life as we know it: polypeptides, polynucleotides, and polysaccharides. The team identified characteristics that were universal, and also those that differed across the three biopolymer types. The data was then used to create a model that provides details about the potential origins, selection, and early evolution of these molecules. The researchers posit that the universal properties of the three polymers suggest that they emerged simultaneously and evolved together in a ‘common hydrolytic milieu.’

The study, “Folding, Assembly, and Persistence: The Essential Nature and Origins of Biopolymers,” was published in the Journal of Molecular Evolution. The work was supported by NASA Astrobiology through the Exobiology Program.