Theory Describing the Synthesis of Early Life-Forming Chemicals is Presented in Astrobiology

Press Release From: Mary Ann Liebert Inc.
Posted: Monday, July 16, 2007


Understanding how life on Earth began requires a clear explanation of the chemical reactions necessary to synthesize the basic building blocks of life. An exciting new report that presents potential mechanisms for nucleobase synthesis in interstellar space and under the conditions of early Earth is featured in the June issue (Volume 7, Number 3) of Astrobiology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The paper is available free online at

Rainer Glaser, Brian Hodgen, Dean Farrelly, and Elliot McKee, working at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and using calculations that model gas-phase chemistry, applied ab initio electronic structure theory to explore mechanisms for adenine formation from monocyclic HCN-pentamers.

In a paper entitled, “Adenine Synthesis in Interstellar Space: Mechanisms of Prebiotic Pyrimidine-Ring Formation of Monocyclic HCN-Pentamers,” the authors note the remarkable absence of a sizeable activation barrier for cyclization, enabling the formation of the purine skeleton needed for adenine synthesis under the available photolytic conditions. According to the authors, the computed photoexcitation characteristics of the pyrimidine-ring formation of monocyclic HCN-pentamers are compatible with photolytic reactions (requiring light with wavelengths below 296 nm—on the high-energy side of the UV-B range) that could occur in the interstellar UV radiation field and on the surface of the young Earth.

“Model gas phase chemical calculations may help locate and quantify compounds essential to prebiotic chemistry in interstellar space,” says journal Editor, Sherry L. Cady, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Geology at Portland State University. “Knowing whether adenine is plentiful within stellar dust clouds contributes significantly to the discussion as to whether life on Earth-like exoplanets will exhibit any real similarity to life on Earth.”

Astrobiology is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published bimonthly in print and online. The journal provides a forum for scientists seeking to advance our understanding of life’s origins, evolution, distribution and destiny in the universe. A complete table of contents and a full text for this issue may be viewed online at

Astrobiology is the leading peer-reviewed journal in its field. To promote this developing field, the Journal has teamed up with The Astrobiology Web to highlight one outstanding paper per issue of Astrobiology. This paper is available free online at and to visitors of The Astrobiology Web at

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry’s most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm’s 60 journals, books, and news magazines is available at

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