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Thermodynamic potential for the abiotic synthesis of Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine, Thymine, Uracil, Ribose, and Deoxyribose in hydrothermal systems
LaRowe, D. E.; Regnier, P. (2008). Thermodynamic potential for the abiotic synthesis of Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine, Thymine, Uracil, Ribose, and Deoxyribose in hydrothermal systems. Orig. Life Evol. Biosph. 38(5): 383-397. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11084-008-9137-2
In: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere. Reidel: Dordrecht; Boston. ISSN 0169-6149; e-ISSN 1573-0875
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Nucleobases; Ribose; Deoxyribose; Hydrothermal systems; Thermodynamics

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  • LaRowe, D. E.
  • Regnier, P.

Abstract
    The thermodynamic potential for the abiotic synthesis of the five common nucleobases (adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine, and uracil) and two monosaccharides (ribose and deoxyribose) from formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide has been quantified under temperature, pressure, and bulk composition conditions that are representative of hydrothermal systems. The activities of the precursor molecules (formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide) required to evaluate the thermodynamics of biomolecule synthesis were computed using the concentrations of aqueous N2, CO, CO2 and H2 reported in the modern Rainbow hydrothermal system. The concentrations of precursor molecules that can be synthesized are strongly dependent on temperature with larger concentrations prevailing at lower temperatures. Similarly, the thermodynamic drive to synthesize nucleobases, ribose and deoxyribose varies considerably as a function of temperature: all of the biomolecules considered in this study are thermodynamically favored to be synthesized throughout the temperature range from 0°C to between 150°C and 250°C, depending on the biomolecule. Furthermore, activity diagrams have been generated to illustrate that activities in the range of 10-2– 10-6 for nucleobases, ribose and deoxyribose can be in equilibrium with a range of precursor molecule activities at 150°C and 500 bars. The results presented here support the notion that hydrothermal systems could have played a fundamental role in the origin of life, and can be used to plan and constrain experimental investigation of the abiotic synthesis of nucleic-acid related biomolecules.

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