Deep ocean hydrothermal vents have long been suggested as possible sources of biological molecules such as RNA and DNA but it was unclear how they could survive the high temperatures and pressures that occur round these vents.
In a study published today in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Professor Peter Coveney and colleagues at the UCL Centre for Computational Science have used computer simulation to provide insight into the structure and stability of DNA while inserted into layered minerals. Computer simulation techniques have rarely been used to understand the possible chemical pathways to the formation of early biomolecules until now.
Professor Coveney explains, “Computational grids are only now being made easy to use for scientists, enabling simulations of sufficient size to model these large biomolecule and mineral systems”.
Previous experimental studies have shown that molecules such as DNA can be inserted into minerals called layered double hydroxides (LDHs) but no one has thus far been able to show at the level of atoms and molecules how the DNA interacts with the mineral, or how the DNA might look inside the mineral layers. These minerals would have been common in the earliest age of Earth 2500 million years ago.
The simulations reproduced the high temperatures and pressures that occur around hydrothermal vents. It was shown that the structure of DNA inserted into layered minerals becomes stabilized at these conditions and therefore protected from catalytic and thermal degradation.
“Grids of supercomputers are essential for this kind of study”, says Professor Coveney, “The time taken to run these simulations is reduced from the years that a desktop computer would take, to hours by using the many thousands of processors made available across continents”.
Professor Coveney’s group has been researching into the routes to the origin of life for a number of years, studying the way that genetic information may have arisen and been replicated, as well as how small molecules may have formed, working together with colleagues at Nottingham and Durham Universities.
Gillian Sinclair | alfa
Green Light for Galaxy Europe
15.03.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Tokyo Tech's six-legged robots get closer to nature
12.03.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...
The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...
At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.
When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...
At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.
Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
08.03.2018 | Event News
19.03.2018 | Trade Fair News
19.03.2018 | Life Sciences
19.03.2018 | Life Sciences