At a time when life as we know it was just getting its start on Earth, Martian clay may have harbored a key component for one of life’s molecular building blocks, researchers say.
Boron found in a Martian meteorite suggests the Red Planet may once have had the right chemistry to give rise to RNA, according to a new study.
"In early life RNA is thought to have been the informational precursor to DNA," study researcher James Stephenson, an evolutionary biologist, said in a statement.
Billions of years ago, RNA may have been the first molecule to program information and pass it on to the next generation. Today, that task is DNA’s domain. RNA, meanwhile, is responsible for carrying genetic information from DNA to proteins. Researchers believe the RNA sugar component, ribose, relies on borates (the oxidized form of boron) to form spontaneously.
"Borates may have been important for the origin of life on Earth because they can stabilize ribose, a crucial component of RNA," added Stephenson, who is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Hawaii at Manoa NASA Astrobiology Institute (UHNAI).