Heated Research On The Origin Of Life In Warm Waters And Ernesto Di Mauro
Who's Ernesto Di Mauro? He is Professor of Molecular Biology at the Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. I caught his recent research in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, which "publishes papers based on original research that are judged to make a novel and important contribution to understanding the molecular and cellular basis of biological processes." Here are two recent abstracts by Di Mauro and colleagues. (1) Abstract: The synthesis of RNA chains from 3′,5′-cAMP and 3′,5′-cGMP was observed. The RNA chains formed in water, at moderate temperatures (40–90 °C), in the absence of enzymes or inorganic catalysts. As determined by RNase analyses, the bonds formed were canonical 3′,5′-phosphodiester bonds. The polymerizations are based on two reactions not previously described: 1) oligomerization of 3′, 5′-cGMP to ∼25-nucleotide-long RNA molecules, and of 3′,5′-cAMP to 4- to 8-nucleotide-long molecules. Oligonucleotide A molecules were further extended by reciprocal terminal ligation to yield RNA molecules up to >120 nucleotides long and 2) chain extension by terminal ligation of newly polymerized products of 3′,5′-cGMP on preformed oligonucleotides. The enzyme- and template-independent synthesis of long oligomers in water from prebiotically affordable precursors approaches the concept of spontaneous generation of (pre)genetic information. ("Generation of Long RNA Chains in Water" by Giovanna Costanzo, Samanta Pino, Fabiana Ciciriello, and Ernesto Di Mauro. J. Biol. Chem. (2009) 284, 33206-33216.) (2) Abstract: We describe the nonenzymatic ligation of RNA oligomers in water. Dimers and tetramers are formed in a time-, pH-, and temperature-dependent reaction. Ligation efficiency depends on oligonucleotide length and sequence and is strongly enhanced by adenine-based nucleotide cofactors. Ligation of short RNA fragments could have liberated the prebiotic polymerization systems from the thermodynamically demanding task of reaching a (pre)genetically meaningful size by stepwise addition of one precursor monomer at the time. ("Nonenzymatic RNA Ligation in Water." Pino S, Ciciriello F, Costanzo G, Di Mauro E. J. Biol. Chem. (2008) 283, 36494-36503.) Professor Di Mauro has been making long chains of RNA from individual subunits using warm water. A spontaneous fusing (or ligation) generates, for example, RNA molecules of biologically important size at around 100 bases long; and the RNA molecules begin to fold into functional 3D shapes. His research has provided some important experimental clues to how organic molecules could form the building blocks of life. I read today: "By showing that a tiny segment of RNA can perform a key step of protein synthesis, this study has provided evidence that fundamental, protein-mediated cellular processes may have arisen from RNA-based mechanisms." This was said of Professor Michael Yarus and his paper, Multiple translational products from a five-nucleotide ribozyme, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Early Edition). It is surprising to me that Ernesto Di Mauro and colleagues are not included in the paper's references. Di Mauro's work is cited by other researchers and I wonder why not by the University of Colorado team. Oddly enough, they mention some related matters such as water solubility or some geochemical source for RNA shortlengths (i.e. subunits), etc. Greetings, Professor Di Mauro, I congratulate you and your colleagues for your accomplishments.