Fullerenes -the template for life on Earth?
Isr Med Assoc J. 2012 Oct;14(10):602-6.
Fullerene and the origin of life.
- 1Human Molecular Genetics and Pharmacogenetics, Migal Biotechnology Institute, Kiryat Shmona, Israel.
The role of carbon in the development of life and as the structural backbone of all organisms is universally accepted and an essential part of evolution. However, the molecular basis is largely unknown and the interactions of carbon with nitrogen and oxygen in space are enigmatic. In 1985, the previously unknown form of carbon, coined fullerene, was discovered. We hypothesize that by virtue of the unique properties of fullerene, this hollow, ultra-robust, large, purely carbon molecule was the earliest progenitor of life. It acted as a stable universal biologic template on which small molecules spontaneously assembled and then formed, by further assembly, a surface mantle (here termed rosasome) of larger molecules. We submit that this process, by its inherent flexibility, initiated evolution, allowing the emergence of parallel diverse rosasome lines responding selectively to varying spatial environments. For example, rosasomal lines mantled with nucleotide and peptide layers are conceived as primordial forerunners of the ubiquitous ribosome. Moreover, the parallel independent and interdependent evolution of rosasome lines would be more rapid than sequential development, refute precedence of either DNA or RNA, and explain the evolution of integration of two subunits with different structures and functions in ribosomes and of the triplet nature of the codon. Based on recent astronomical data, this hypothesis supports the concept that life is not a singularity. This concept also suggests a potential vehicle for therapeutics, biotechnology and genetic engineering.