Scientists led by Rutgers University have discovered the structures of proteins responsible for the origin of life in the primitive soup of ancient Earth.
Researchers publishing results in scientific advances have explored how early life on our planet may have evolved from simple inanimate objects. They wondered what were the defining properties of life as we know it, and concluded that anything living would be needed to collect and use energy from sources such as the sun or hydrothermal vents.
In molecular terms, the ability to manipulate electrons means that life is essential. Since the best components for electron transfer are metals and most biological functions are carried out by proteins, the researchers decided to explore a combination of the two, namely metal binding proteins.
These shared features were present in the proteins of the ancestor and were diversified, comparing all existing metal-binding protein structures to establish common features, based on the basis for creating the range of proteins we see today.
The evolution of protein structures involves understanding how new folds arose from pre-existing ones, so the researchers devised a computational method that found that most of the existing metal-binding proteins are somewhat similar regardless of age. , The function assigned to the organism or protein as a whole.
“We found that the metal-binding cores of existing proteins actually resemble those of proteins, if not proteins,” said Yana Bromberg, professor of biochemistry and microbiology at UCLA, a leading research author. University-New Brunswick. “We also found that these metal-binding cores were mostly composed of recurring substructures such as LEGO blocks. Interestingly, these building blocks were found in other parts of the protein, metal-binding cores and many other proteins. Reconstructions of these small building blocks are a common ancestor Or our observation that there may be a small number of ancestors., To the life we know “.
“We have very little information about how life came to be on this planet, and our work offers an unprecedented explanation,” said Bromberg, whose research focuses on understanding the DNA maps of molecular machines in life.
“This explanation may also contribute to our search for life on other planets and planetary bodies. Our discovery of specific structural blocks may also be relevant to synthetic biological endeavors, where scientists again aim to create particularly active proteins.” , He concluded. .