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is a biologically important type of molecule that consists of a long chain of nucleotide units. Each nucleotide consists of a nitrogenous base, a ribose sugar, and a phosphate. RNA is very similar to DNA, but differs in a few important structural details: in the cell, RNA is usually single-stranded, while DNA is usually double-stranded; RNA nucleotides contain ribose while DNA contains deoxyribose (a type of ribose that lacks one oxygen atom); and RNA has the base uracil rather than thymine that is present in DNA.
RNA is transcribed from DNA by enzymes called RNA polymerases and is generally further processed by other enzymes. RNA is central to protein synthesis. Here, a type of RNA called messenger RNA carries information from DNA to structures called ribosomes. These ribosomes are made from proteins and ribosomal RNAs, which come together to form a molecular machine that can read messenger RNAs and translate the information they carry into proteins. There are many RNAs with other roles – in particular regulating which genes are expressed, but also as the genomes of most viruses.
NASA scientists studying the origin of life have reproduced uracil, a key component of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces this essential ingredient of life.
Pyrimidine is a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen and is the basic structure for uracil, part of a genetic code found in ribonucleic acid (RNA). RNA is central to protein synthesis, but has many other roles.
"We have demonstrated for the first time that we can make uracil, a component of RNA, non-biologically in a laboratory under conditions found in space," said Michel Nuevo, research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. "We are showing that these laboratory processes, which simulate occurrences in outer space, can make a fundamental building block used by living organisms on Earth."
Originally posted by mostlyspoons
I think that was a very interesting article, and it certainly deserves some more attention. If a meteor flying through space can produce an ingredient for dna, then meteors are almost like "life-starter kits" for planets.
Maybe life is pretty common in the universe?
Originally posted by apacheman
Great find...s&f for you.
The reason it hasn't been commented on by the religious wing is that it is too hard to debunk. It is, after all, very basic and fundamental science of the either/or variety, and acknowledging it weakens the "God did it" for most religionists. Don't worry, though, they'll show up soon remarking about how wonderfully subtle god is (whichever god they adhere to).
Originally posted by tinfoilman
So the only way the primordial soup can be true is if scientists find an environment where all the ingredients can be formed at the same time under the same conditions.
Unless of course a volcano emptied into a thermal vent
It has been proposed that amino-acid synthesis could have occurred deep in the Earth's crust and that these amino-acids were subsequently shot up along with hydrothermal fluids into cooler waters, where lower temperatures and the presence of clay minerals would have fostered the formation of peptides and protocells. This is an attractive hypothesis because of the abundance of CH4 and NH3 present in hydrothermal vent regions, a condition that was not provided by the Earth's primitive atmosphere. A major limitation to this hypothesis is the lack of stability of organic molecules at high temperatures, but some have suggested that life would have originated outside of the zones of highest temperature.
Originally posted by digifanatic
Wow, great find! So I pose 2 questions in light of this:
1. Does this mean that life could be more common in the universe than we thought?
2. Could this be why radiation destroys our dna? It's possible that if it gets any more radiation than what it gets in space that it then further decays?
Thanks for the article!