Ethanolamine, the molecule that came from space and formed our cells

An international and multidisciplinary scientific team led by Victor M. Rivilla, researcher at the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) at the Center for Astrobiology (CAB, CSIC-INTA), has detected in space ethanolamine.

It is a molecule that contains four fundamental chemical elements for life: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. Ethanolamine is part of phospholipids, molecules that make up cell membranes, which were crucial in the origin and early evolution of life on Earth.

The appearance of cell membranes represents a crucial milestone in the origin and early evolution of life on Earth, as they are responsible for maintaining some stable conditions inside cells, protecting both the genetic material and the metabolic machinery.

Ethanolamine, new stars and planetary systems

“Our results suggest that ethanolamine is efficiently synthesized in interstellar space in molecular clouds where new stars and planetary systems are formed,” he highlights Rivilla.

“We know that a wide repertoire of prebiotic molecules could have reached early Earth through the bombardment of comets and meteorites,” he says. Izaskun Jiménez-Serra, researcher at the CAB-CSIC-INTA and co-author of the study. “We estimate that around One thousand trillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) liters of ethanolamine could have been transferred to early Earth by meteorite impacts. This is equivalent to the total volume of Lake Victoria, the largest in Africa by area, ”he adds. Jimenez-Serra.

In order to Carlos Briones placeholder image, a researcher at CAB-CSIC-INTA and co-author of the study, “the availability of ethanolamine in primitive Earth, together with fatty acids or alcohols, could have contributed to the evolution of primitive cell membranes. This has important implications not only for the study of the origin of life on Earth, but also on other habitable planets and satellites within the Solar System or anywhere in the Universe.

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More information in the CSIC website.

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