Procurando o mundo RNA em Marte

sábado, janeiro 28, 2023

In search of the RNA world on Mars

Angel Mojarro, Lin Jin, Jack W. Szostak, James W. Head III, Maria T. Zuber

First published: 10 February 2021


 Image/Imagem: The Scientist


Advances in origins of life research and prebiotic chemistry suggest that life as we know it may have emerged from an earlier RNA World. However, it has been difficult to reconcile the conditions used in laboratory experiments with real-world geochemical environments that may have existed on the early Earth and hosted the origin(s) of life. This challenge is due to geologic resurfacing and recycling that have erased the overwhelming majority of the Earth's prebiotic history. We therefore propose that Mars, a planet frozen in time, comprised of many surfaces that have remained relatively unchanged since their formation > 4 Gya, is the best alternative to search for environments consistent with geochemical requirements imposed by the RNA world. In this study, we synthesize in situ and orbital observations of Mars and modeling of its early atmosphere into solutions containing a range of pHs and concentrations of prebiotically relevant metals (Fe2+, Mg2+, and Mn2+) spanning various candidate aqueous environments. We then experimentally determine RNA degradation kinetics due to metal-catalyzed hydrolysis (cleavage) and evaluate whether early Mars could have been permissive toward the accumulation of long-lived RNA polymers. Our results indicate that a Mg2+-rich basalt sourcing metals to a slightly acidic (pH 5.4) environment mediates the slowest rates of RNA cleavage, though geologic evidence and basalt weathering models suggest aquifers on Mars would be near neutral (pH ~ 7). Moreover, the early onset of oxidizing conditions on Mars has major consequences regarding the availability of oxygen-sensitive metals (i.e., Fe2+ and Mn2+) due to increased RNA degradation rates and precipitation. Overall, (a) low pH decreases RNA cleavage at high metal concentrations; (b) acidic to neutral pH environments with Fe2+ or Mn2+ cleave more RNA than Mg2+; and (c) alkaline environments with Mg2+ dramatically cleaves more RNA while precipitates were observed for Fe2+ and Mn2+.