Asphalt, water, and the prebiotic synthesis of ribose, ribonucleosides, and RNA.

@article{Benner2012AsphaltWA,
  title={Asphalt, water, and the prebiotic synthesis of ribose, ribonucleosides, and RNA.},
  author={Steven A. Benner and Hyo-Joong Kim and Matthew A. Carrigan},
  journal={Accounts of chemical research},
  year={2012},
  volume={45 12},
  pages={
          2025-34
        }
}
RNA has been called a "prebiotic chemist's nightmare" because of its combination of large size, carbohydrate building blocks, bonds that are thermodynamically unstable in water, and overall intrinsic instability. However, a discontinuous synthesis model is well-supported by experimental work that might produce RNA from atmospheric CO(2), H(2)O, and N(2). For example, electrical discharge in such atmospheres gives formaldehyde (HCHO) in large amounts and glycolaldehyde (HOCH(2)CHO) in small… 

Figures from this paper

Molybdenum(VI)-Catalyzed Rearrangement of Prebiotic Carbohydrates in Formamide, a Candidate Prebiotic Solvent.
TLDR
It is reported that formamide can be used as a solvent to perform the Bílik reaction, which uses molybdenum(VI) oxo species as catalysts at near-neutral pH to rearrange branched carbohydrates to give linear carbohydrates.
Abiotic production of sugar phosphates and uridine ribonucleoside in aqueous microdroplets
TLDR
It is found that the phosphorylation of various sugars to form sugar-1-phosphates can proceed spontaneously in aqueous microdroplets containing a simple mixture of sugars and phosphoric acid, which suggests the possibility that micro Droplets could serve as a prebiotic synthetic pathway for ribonucleosides.
Evidence for reactive reduced phosphorus species in the early Archean ocean
TLDR
The occurrence of phosphite in early Archean marine carbonates at levels indicating that this was an abundant dissolved species in the ocean before 3.5 Ga is reported, showing that phosphite derived from schreibersite was a plausible reagent in the prebiotic synthesis of phosphorylated biomolecules.
Non-enzymatic ribonucleotide reduction in the prebiotic context.
TLDR
Several mechanisms for ribonucleotide reduction, in a putative H2 S/HS(.) environment, are characterized using computational chemistry and a bio-inspired mechanistic cycle involving a keto intermediate and HSSH production is found to be potentially viable.
Hydroxymethanesulfonate from Volcanic Sulfur Dioxide: A “Mineral” Reservoir for Formaldehyde and Other Simple Carbohydrates in Prebiotic Chemistry
TLDR
Hydroxymethylsulfonate adducts of formaldehyde, glycolaldehyde, and glyceraldehyde, including the less soluble barium, strontium, and calcium salts, are likely candidates for prebiotically useful organic minerals on early Earth.
Synthesis of barbituric acid containing nucleotides and their implications for the origin of primitive informational polymers.
TLDR
Preliminary evidence is provided that BA could have been a putative precursor of modern nucleobases, which could have be incorporated into primitive informational polymers that predated the molecules of an RNA world.
Thermal Behavior of d-Ribose Adsorbed on Silica: Effect of Inorganic Salt Coadsorption and Significance for Prebiotic Chemistry.
TLDR
The results allow the likelihood of prebiotic chemistry scenarios to be evaluated, and may also be of interest for the valorization of biomass-derived carbohydrates by heterogeneous catalysis.
The Juxtaposition of Ribose Hydroxyl Groups: The Root of Biological Catalysis and the RNA World?
TLDR
It is proposed that the almost unique juxtaposition of ribose hydroxyl groups constitutes the root of both biological catalysis and the RNA world.
The Prebiotic Provenance of Semi-Aqueous Solvents
TLDR
It is suggested the urea within the UAFW system can lower the activity of water, help create a stable and persistent solution, and may act as a condensing agent/catalyst to improve nucleoside phosphorylation yields.
...
...

References

SHOWING 1-10 OF 51 REFERENCES
Synthesis of carbohydrates in mineral-guided prebiotic cycles.
TLDR
Detailed chemical analyses of carbohydrate premetabolism are provided, showing how borate, molybdate, and calcium minerals guide the formation of tetroses, heptoses, and pentoses, including the ribose found in RNA, in "hands off" experiments, starting with formaldehyde and glycolaldehyde.
The Silicate-Mediated Formose Reaction: Bottom-Up Synthesis of Sugar Silicates
TLDR
It is demonstrated that simple two- and three-carbon molecules spontaneously form silicate complexes of four- and six-carbon sugars, respectively, which suggest that formose-like reactions may provide a feasible pathway for the abiotic formation of biologically important sugars, such as ribose.
Synthesis of activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides in prebiotically plausible conditions
TLDR
It is shown that activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides can be formed in a short sequence that bypasses free ribose and the nucleobases, and instead proceeds through arabinose amino-oxazoline and anhydronucleoside intermediates.
Borate Minerals and Origin of the RNA World
TLDR
Boron isotope data and geologic context are consistent with an evaporitic borate precursor to 2400-2100 Ma borate deposits in the Liaoning and Jilin Provinces, China, as well as to tourmaline-group minerals at 3300–3450 Ma in the Barberton belt, South Africa.
Prebiotic phosphorylation of nucleosides in formamide
TLDR
A possible prebiotic phosphorylation method has been investigated in which formamide served as the reaction medium and the acidic dihydrogen phosphates and condensed hydrogen phosphates proved to be the best phosphorylating agents.
Lipid-assisted Synthesis of RNA-like Polymers from Mononucleotides
TLDR
This work shows that RNA-like polymers can be synthesized non-enzymatically from mononucleotides in lipid environments, and is the first such application of a nanopore instrument to detect RNA synthesis under simulated prebiotic conditions.
Advances in the Prebiotic Synthesis of Nucleic Acids Bases: Implications for the Origin of Life
TLDR
The attempts to identify the prebiotic events originating purine and pirimidine nucleic acids bases, the necessary components for the assembling of nucleosides, nucleotides and oligonucleotides are focused on.
...
...