RNA-based ‘building blocks’ of life found in abundance at the center of the Galaxy

(ORDO NEWS) — Nitriles, organic compounds containing a cyano group, are usually the strongest organic poisons.

But at the same time, they are key chemical precursors to important biological molecules, such as ribonucleotides, which form RNA molecules.

In a new study, a team of scientists shows that in interstellar space, inside the G+0.693-0.027 molecular cloud, located near the center of the Milky Way, a large number of different nitriles can be found.

A number of modern scientists believe that life on Earth could initially form only on the basis of RNA, while evolution with the formation of protein enzymes and DNA occurred later.

RNA can perform the functions of both compounds – store and copy information, like DNA, and catalyze reactions, like enzymes.

According to the RNA world hypothesis, nitriles and other “building blocks” of life did not have to originate on Earth itself – they could have been formed in space and delivered to the young Earth inside meteorites and comets during the Late Heavy Bombardment, which took place between 4.1 and 3.8 billion years ago.

This hypothesis is confirmed by the fact that nitriles and other chemical precursors of nucleotides, fats, and amino acids have been found in the matter of modern comets and meteors.

But where in space did these molecules form? The main candidates for this role are giant molecular clouds, which are dense and cold regions of interstellar space suitable for the formation of large molecules.

For example, a molecular cloud G+0.693-0.027 has a temperature of about 100 Kelvin and a mass of about three solar masses. At present, scientists have not found evidence that stars are forming in this molecular cloud, but they may begin to form in the future.

In their work, a group led by Dr. Victor Rivilla (VĂ­ctor M. Rivilla) from the Astrobiological Center of the Supreme Council for Scientific Research of Spain studied the electromagnetic spectra of the substance of the G + 0.693-0.027 molecular cloud using two telescopes.

As a result, the following molecules of the nitrile class were detected: cyanoallene (CH2CCHCN), propargyl cyanide (HCCCH2CN), and cyanopropine, compounds that were not previously detected in this molecular cloud, although their presence was detected in the TMC-1 molecular cloud in 2019.

Despite the fact that the conditions in this dark cloud are very different from those in the G+0.693-0.027 cloud. In addition, the Rivilla team, in the course of their spectroscopic study, registered the possible presence of other complex organic molecules,


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