Biochemistry & Organic Chemistry

Solvent Constraints For Biopolymer Folding And Evolution In Extraterrestrial Environments

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
October 5, 2023
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Solvent Constraints For Biopolymer Folding And Evolution In Extraterrestrial Environments
Biopolymer Solvent scoring. (A) Relationship between the fraction of the biopolymer compatible range and the liquid range of solvents and the average fractional efficiency for conversion of folding free energy to sequence information, for 54 solvents at 1 atm. Large black circle: water. Green circles: hydrocarbons. Magenta circles: small substances from C, H, O, N and S. Grey circles: other solvents in Table 1. Black line: range for water calculated from the uncertainty in the dynamic transition temperature presented in Figure 3 (values range from 180 to 230K). The grey lines indicate constant values of the BSscore (Equation [9]). (B) Ranking of the solvents according to the BSscore. — astro-ph.EP

We propose that spontaneous folding and molecular evolution of biopolymers are two universal aspects that must concur for life to happen.

These aspects are fundamentally related to the chemical composition of biopolymers and crucially depend on the solvent in which they are embedded. We show that molecular information theory and energy landscape theory allow us to explore the limits that solvents impose on biopolymer existence.

We consider 54 solvents, including water, alcohols, hydrocarbons, halogenated solvents, aromatic solvents, and low molecular weight substances made up of elements abundant in the universe, which may potentially take part in alternative biochemistries. We find that along with water, there are many solvents for which the liquid regime is compatible with biopolymer folding and evolution. We present a ranking of the solvents in terms of biopolymer compatibility. Many of these solvents have been found in molecular clouds or may be expected to occur in extrasolar planets.

Ignacio E. Sánchez, Ezequiel A. Galpern, Diego U. Ferreiro

Comments: 25 pages, 6 figures
Subjects: Biomolecules (q-bio.BM); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2310.00067 [q-bio.BM] (or arXiv:2310.00067v1 [q-bio.BM] for this version)
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Submission history
From: Diego Ferreiro
[v1] Fri, 29 Sep 2023 18:18:18 UTC (960 KB)
Astrobiology, Astrochemistry

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻