Radiolysis Generates a Complex Organosynthetic Chemical Network

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
November 13, 2019
Filed under
Radiolysis Generates a Complex Organosynthetic Chemical Network
Selected examples of network-level organizational features of radiolytic systems (left) and biology (right) including hierarchical stratification, closed-loop cycling and heavy-tailed distributions of object connectivity. Heavy-tailed biological network figure from Titz et al

Origins of life chemistry has progressed from seeking out the production of specific molecules to seeking out conditions in which macromolecular precursors may interact with one another in ways that lead to biological organization.

Reported precursor synthesis networks generally lack biological organizational attributes. Radical species are highly reactive, but do their chemical reaction networks resemble living systems? Here we report the results of radiolysis reaction experiments that connect abundant geochemical reservoirs to the production of carboxylic acids, amino acids, and ribonucleotide precursors and study the topological properties of the resulting network.

The network exhibits attributes associated with biological systems: it is hierarchically organized, there are families of closed loop cycles, and the species and cycle histograms exhibit heterogeneous (heavy-tailed) distributions. The core cycles of the network are made possible by the high reactivity of radical species such as H and OH. Radiolysis is implicated as a unique prerequisite for driving abiotic organosynthetic self-organization.

Preprint submitted on 04.11.2019, 13:09 and posted on 12.11.2019, 19:00 by Zachary Adam Albert C. Fahrenbach Sofia Marie Jacobson Betul Kacar Dmitry Yu. Zubarev

Astrobiology, Astrochemistry

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