Research ArticleASTRONOMY

The origin of RNA precursors on exoplanets

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Science Advances  01 Aug 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 8, eaar3302
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar3302

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  • RE: The origin of RNA precursors on exoplanets
    • Karo Michaelian, Physicist, Instituto de Física, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México

    I fully agree with the emphasis of Rimmer et al. on considering ultraviolet light in the prebiotic synthesis of fundamental molecules of life from simpler precursor molecules. This work goes back to the early 1960’s, beginning with Óro [1] and Óro and Kimballl [2] and later Ferris and Orgel [3]. It has now been shown [2,3,4] how all DNA nucleobases can be produced using UVC light incident on either HCN or formamide H2NCOH (a common product of UV light on HCN and H2O). The work of Sutherland and co-workers, demonstrating “one shot” RNA nucleoside production through UV-induced ionization of catalysts [5], is also an important contribution. The article by Rimmer et al. and an earlier article by Ranjan and Sasselov [6] cited in the former, indeed seem to be correct in asserting the importance of considering UV light in the determination of an abiogenisis zone around a particular star and thereby identifying the spectral class of stars which could support such a photochemical factory. However, where I differ from these authors is in their assumption that efficient synthesis of fundamental molecules of life, or the building up of the “prebiotic inventory”, are necessary conditions for the irreversible thermodynamic process which we call “the origin of life”.

    Since life is a process rather than an equilibrium structure or an inventory of structures in equilibrium, the origin of life, its proliferation, and evolution through time, as is the case for any irreversible proce...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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