A Rutgers-led team has found the structure of proteins that could be responsible for the origins of life in the primordial soup of the ancient earth.
The researchers explored how a simple non-living substance can be responsible for the origins of all of the lives on the earth.
Scientists asked what defines life as we know it and concluded that anything alive would have needed to collect and use energy, from sources such as the Sun or hydrothermal vents.
According to scientists, the shuffles of electrons at the molecular level were paramount to the origin of primitive life on earth.
According to scientists, the combination of metal and proteins, i.e. proteins that bind metals could be responsible for the origins of life, since metals are the best substance to transport electrons while proteins are the best substances to carry out biological activities.
Comparing all the existing proteins that bind metals, they drew out similarities based on the structure of the proteins and tried to reach a structure that these could have evolved from.
“We saw that the metal-binding cores of existing proteins are indeed similar even though the proteins themselves may not be,” said the study’s lead author Yana Bromberg, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
“We also saw that these metal-binding cores are often made up of repeated substructures, kind of like LEGO blocks,” he added.
"Curiously, these blocks were also found in other regions of the proteins, not just metal-binding cores, and in many other proteins that were not considered in our study."