Large deposits of montmorillonite are present on the Earth today and it is believed to have been present at the time of the origin of life and has recently been detected on Mars. It is formed by aqueous weathering of volcanic ash. It catalyses the formation of oligomers of RNA that contain monomer units from 2 to 30–50. Oligomers of this length are formed because this catalyst controls the structure of the oligomers formed and does not generate all possible isomers. Evidence of sequence-, regio- and homochiral selectivity in these oligomers has been obtained. Postulates on the role of selective versus specific catalysts on the origins of life are discussed. An introduction to the origin of life is given with an emphasis on reaction conditions based on the recent data obtained from zircons 4.0–4.5 Ga.
One contribution of 19 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘Conditions for the emergence of life on the early Earth’.
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