Origin of Life
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Piet Herdewijn and M. Volkan Kisakürek (Eds.)

Origin of Life

Chemical Approach





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March 2008
418 Pages, Hardcover

ISBN-10: 3-906390-50-0
ISBN-13: 978-3-906390-50-5



Dedicated to the fond memory of two great pioneers of this science, Leslie E. Orgel and Stanley L. Miller, this compilation of reviews and original manuscripts provides an overview of the current state of the art, written by some of the eminent ‘players’ in this creative domain of ‘explorative chemistry’.
Since we are still far from finding a definitive answer to the most fundamental of questions in science, ‘chemistry’ here is defined in its broadest sense. It is against this background that the contributions cover such a wide range of theories, including chemistry and selection, evolution of the pioneer organism, chemical aspects of synthetic biology, ribozyme catalysis of metabolism in the RNA world, intractable mixtures and the origin of life, the chemical etiology of nucleic acids, interstellar amino acids, and even the chemistry that preceded life's origin.
The majority of the articles reproduced in this volume originally appeared in a special issue of Chemistry & Biodiversity under the title ‘On Chemistry Leading to Life’s Origin’.



What Is Life? A Brief Historical Overview
A. Lazcano


Reactions of the HCN-Tetramer with Aldehydes
K. Koch, W. B. Schweizer, A. Eschenmoser*


On a Hypothetical Generational Relationship between HCN and Constituents of the Reductive Citric Acid Cycle
A. Eschenmoser


Chemistry and Selection
C. de Duve


On the Chemistry and Evolution of the Pioneer Organism
G. Wächtershäuser


Physico-Chemical and Evolutionary Constraints for the Formation and Selection of First Biopolymers: Towards the Consensus Paradigm of the Abiogenic Origin of Life
A. Y. Mulkidjanian*, M. Y. Galperin


Chemical Aspects of Synthetic Biology
P. L. Luisi


Errors and Alternatives in Prebiotic Replication and Catalysis
J. Ninio


Evolution of Optimal Accuracy and Stability in Biological Systems
R. Holliday


Ribozyme Catalysis of Metabolism in the RNA World
X. Chen, N. Li, A. D. Ellington*


RNAs in Extreme Environments
C. Torchet, M.-C. Maurel*


Intractable Mixtures and the Origin of Life
A. W. Schwartz


The First Steps of Chemical Evolution towards the Origin of Life
B. M. Rode*, D. Fitz, T. Jakschitz


From Interstellar Amino Acids to Prebiotic Catalytic Peptides: A Review
A. Brack


The Chemistry That Preceded Life’s Origin: A Study Guide from Meteorites
S. Pizzarello


Formamide Chemistry and the Origin of Informational Polymers
R. Saladino, C. Crestini, F. Ciciriello, G. Costanzo, E. Di Mauro*


RNA: Prebiotic Product,or Biotic Invention?
C. Anastasi, F. F. Buchet, M. A. Crowe, A. L. Parkes, M. W. Powner, J. M. Smith, J. D. Sutherland*


Peptide Nucleic Acids and the Origin of Life
P. E. Nielsen


Chemical Etiology of Nucleic Acids: Aminopropyl Nucleic Acids (APNAs)
D. Zhou, M. Froeyen, J. Rozenski, A. Van Aerschot, P. Herdewijn*


Nonenzymatic Recombination of RNA: Possible Mechanism for the Formation of Novel Sequences
A. V. Lutay*, M. A. Zenkova, V. V. Vlassov


Differences in Substrate Specificity of C(5)-Substituted or C(5)-Unsubstituted Pyrimidine Nucleotides by DNA Polymerases from Thermophilic Bacteria,Archaea, and Phages
H. Sawai*, J. Nagashima, M. Kuwahara, R. Kitagata, T. Tamura, I. Matsui


Addressing the Problems of Base Pairing and Strand Cyclization in Template-Directed Synthesis. A Case for the Utility and Necessity of ‘Molecular Midwives’ and Reversible Backbone Linkages for the Origin of proto-RNA
N. V. Hud*, S. S. Jain, X. Li, D. G. Lynn*


Enzymatic Catalyzed DNA Synthesis using l-Asp-dGMP, l-Asp-dCMP, and l-Asp-dTMP
M. Terrazas, P. Marlière, P. Herdewijn*


Chemical Primer Extension: Individual Steps of Spontaneous Replication
J. A. Rojas Stütz, E. Kervio, C. Deck, C. Richert*


Conformational and Chiral Selection of Oligonucleotides
M. Froeyen, F. Morvan, J.-J. Vasseur, P. Nielsen, A. Van Aerschot, H. Rosemeyer, P. Herdewijn*