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Megaw BSC2010- Ch.

Chapter 4 Nucleic Acids and the Origin of Life What Are the Chemical Structures and Functions of Nucleic Acids? Nucleic acid polymers are specialized for the storage, transmission, & use of genetic information. Two types of nucleic acids are DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that encodes genetic information, & RNA (ribonucleic acid), that assists in translating the code into proteins. Nucleotides are the building blocks of nucleic acids Nucleic acids are composed of monomers called nucleotides. Each nucleotide consists of a pentose sugar, a phosphate group, and a nitrogencontaining base. Bases of nucleic acids can be either pyrimidines or purines. Purines have a fused double-ring structure [adenine, guanine]. Pyrimidines have just one ring [cytosine, thymine, uracil]. The pentoses that form part of the backbones of DNA and RNA differ in one important respect: deoxyribose is missing an oxygen that is present in ribose. In both DNA and RNA the backbone consists of alternating sugars and phosphates. The bases are attached to the sugars and project from the polynucleotide chain. The linkages that hold the nucleotides in the polymer are called phosphodiester linkages. They are formed between carbon 3 of the sugar and a phosphate group that is associated with carbon 5 of the sugar. Most RNA molecules consist of a single polynucleotide chain. DNA typically is double-stranded: Two separate polymer chains are associated together. The association is not haphazard, but complementary. In DNA, the two strands are antiparallel: At one end, one strand ends with a free carbon 5 of the deoxyribose, the other with a carbon 3 OH group on the sugar. Base pairing occurs in both DNA and RNA At each position where a purine is found on one strand, a pyrimidine is found on the other [A-T (or U), G-C]. These pairings are based on Hydrogen bonding abilities and the sizes of the structures. RNA has ribonucleotides, which contain ribose. RNA molecules have uracil instead of thymine. RNA is generally single-stranded. DNA carries information and is expressed through RNA DNA is an information molecule only. The information is coded in the order of the four different bases. Central Dogma DNA can reproduce itself exactly [replication] to transmit information from one generation to the next. DNA can copy its info into RNA [transcription] which then can orchestrate the
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production of the protein coded for by the DNA [translation]. Replication, transcription and translation are all phenomena that derive from complementary base pairing Chargaffs Rule.

DNA reveals evolutionary relationships Closely related living species have DNA base sequences that are more similar than distantly related species. The comparative study of base sequences has confirmed many of the more traditional classifications of organisms based on body structure, physiology, and biochemical similarities. For example, based on anatomical evidence, our closest living relatives are chimpanzees. DNA comparisons confirm this: We share more than 98 percent of our DNA base sequences with chimpanzees. Nucleotides have other important roles Some RNA monomers have important roles in energy transfer within cells. The ribonucleotide ATP acts as an energy transducer in many biochemical reactions. It is the cash form of cellular energy. The ribonucleotide GTP powers protein synthesis. cAMP (cyclic AMP) is a special ribonucleotide that is essential for hormone action and the transfer of information by the nervous system. How did life begin on Earth? Observations: - living things are composed of the same elements found in inanimate world - the arrangement of these elements in biological systems is unique - Currently, we know that new life is NOT being formed from non-living materials Experiments disproved spontaneous generation of life. Spontaneous generation of life was based on the concepts that : (prior to 1700 A.D.) A. large molecules obey the laws of physics and chemistry B. life could have arisen from inanimate macromolecules Evidence presented included the spontaneous appearance of maggots in rotting meat. Redis experiment - 1668 jars of meat and appearance of maggots 1. Jar with meat exposed to air and flies 2. Jar wrapped in fine cloth was exposed to air but not to flies 3. Jar sealed. No exposure to either air or flies Result: maggots only appeared in the first jar. Pasteurs experiment finally disproved this idea of spontaneous generation of life Study Fig. 4.7, P. 66 Bacteria were observable by Leeuwenhoeks microscope Nutrient broth exposed to air became teaming with bacteria [from spontaneous generation?] Pasteur used 2 swan-neck flasks of pure nutrient broth. Neck prevented air contamination of the flask contents.

Megaw BSC2010- Ch. 4

When swan-neck was removed from one flask, this flask open to dust particles over time showed microbial growth Unopened Swan-neck flask over time did NOT show microbial growth **Conclusion: all life comes from pre-existing life under current conditions Life as we know it requires water - our solar system formed from a stellar explosion & retraction about 4.6 billion yrs ago. - life apparently was present 4 billion yrs ago. - water may have come from comet impacts [N2 also]. - with planet cooling materials dissolved in the water and reactions took place. - Possible origin of life: under vastly different environmental conditions - from extraterrestrial sources such as meteorites striking Earth - chemical evolution on the planet Life may have come from outside the Earth Evidence has accumulated from meteorites - 1969 Murchison, Australia purines, pyrimidines, sugars and 10 amino acids different isomers from terrestrial [R & L, not just L], non-terrestrial isotope ratios - 1984 found in Antarctica 16 million yrs ago came from Mars had water, polycyclic hydrocarbons and magnetite [could have been made by life forms] - Studies have shown that the interiors of meteorites may not get too hot upon atmosphere entry could carry life down. Pre-biotic synthesis experiments model early Earth Miller and Urey experiment (1950s, U. of Chicago): Hot Chemistry [with sparks] **classic experiment that you should be able to recall [Fig. 4.9] - based on the theoretical work of Russian Aleksandr Oparin - pre-biotic primitive atmosphere of H2, ammonia, methane gas, water vapor - spark (lightning) stimulate gas mixture, cooling (condensation) to form ocean - natural development of 17 amino acids, 3 to 6 C sugars, & all five purines and pyrimidines - strongly suggested chemical evolution possibility ** newer findings add other chemicals to the primitive atmosphere, pre-biotic soup could lead to many diverse molecules ribose, Vit. B, nicotinamide, assorted organic acids - Cold Chemistry Miller also ran a 25 yr experiment with frozen specimens and found that amino acids and nucleotide bases form that way too. - RNA was NOT found in these studies important issue. How did large molecules of life originate? - General heat, substance concentration and catalytic phenomena may all have contributed clays and metals may have acted as catalysts; thermal vents and hot pools may have provided heat and served to concentrate reagents. - Nucleic acid/protein question in life forms here, protein production requires nucleic acids, & nucleic acids require protein enzymes for production
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(metabolism). Which came first metabolic processes or replicator molecules? Evidence supports the idea that RNA may have been the first biologic catalyst ribozymes exist today and can catalyze reactions with nucleotides and to form proteins. Reverse transcriptases exist in some viruses today that can make DNA from RNA.

How did the first cells originate? - For the necessary reactions to take place, reactants needed to be concentrated in compartments may at first have been droplets on mineral surfaces. - Modern cells have membranes to form functional compartments. - Szostak - fatty acids in water form 3D enclosed micelles tails face inward and acid groups face outward. These can contain materials found in the original water medium. The structures will coalesce and form films over time unless stabilized. If a second layer of FAs forms over the first, yielding a bilayer the sphere remains protocells. - Permeability in these systems is selective by size nucleic acids cant traverse, but sugars and nucleotides can. - True cells may have evolved from similar systems. - Oldest specimens with clear cut characteristics of living things Australia 3.5 billion years old similar to cyanobacteria did photosynthesis C isotopes prove that.