Shedding UV light on the chemistry of early Earth

May 3, 2019
Versione stampabile
  • Rafal Szabla
    Institute of Physics, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland

Early studies aiming to understand the origins of biomolecules on our planet were primarily considered as a domain of chemistry. Nevertheless, despite an almost century of efforts, pure chemistry has not provided a fully continuous and prebiotically plausible path towards RNA (or DNA) oligomers from simple organic and inorganic feedstock molecules. Considering that various environmental conditions could have had a substantial impact on prebiotic chemical reactions, only highly interdisciplinary studies may provide a credible solution to this problem. UV irradiation is considered as one of the most important of these environmental factors, owing to the absence of oxygen and ozone in the early terrestrial atmosphere. To understand how UV light contributed to the formation and selection of the most photostable biomolecules, we focus on quantum chemical simulations of prebiotically plausible precursors of nucleotides and RNA fragments. These results confronted with organic synthesis studies, UV-irriadiation experiments and modeling of early Earth's atmosphere shed new light on the early stages of abiogenesis.