PRENUCRNAProject ID: 752420
Prebiotic Synthesis of Pyrimidine Nucleosides: New Insights into RNA Evolution
Understanding how life evolved on Earth is widely regarded as one of the most formidable challenges in modern science. The exploration of the mechanisms regarding the origin of life not only expands our understanding of natural sciences, but also provides new clues regarding the search for life forms and Earth-like conditions on planets other than our own. Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is widely regarded by the scientific community as the key molecule that gave rise to the origin of life. In order to support this “RNA World” hypothesis, scientists over the years have attempted to replicate the conditions present on the early-earth to afford nucleosides in a prebiotic manner. The lack of a uniform synthetic pathway affording canonical purine and pyrimidine nucleosides as well as non-canonical ones impedes our deeper understanding of the early evolution of RNA. Moreover, what has not been investigated in detail is the occurrence of a more primitive prebiotic molecule that might have evolved into RNA over the millennia. In this project, Dr. Okamura aims to study the prebiotic emergence of pyrimidine and pyrimidine-like nucleosides by developing a novel cyanoacetylurea pathway. This is expected to provide canonical as well as non-canonical pyrimidines under prebiotically plausible conditions. Using similar principles, novel pseudo-cyclic pyrimidines, inspired by the aforementioned pathway, will also be synthesized in order to examine their potential validity as candidates for primitive RNA. This project will provide new insight into the evolution of RNA as well as a deeper understanding of the origin of life. Moreover, it will aim to inspire novel approaches towards the European space exploration programs for the search of Earth-like conditions as well as life forms on other planets. This multidisciplinary field, where astrobiology meets prebiotic and nucleic acid chemistry will inspire and offer unique training to Dr. Okamura enabling him to embark on his own academic career.
EU contribution: EUR 171 460,80
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