NASA discovers new lifeform with totally different DNA than anything else

  1. Simfish

    Simfish 827
    Gold Member

    http://gizmodo.com/5704158/nasa-finds-new-life

    This might EASILY be the most amazing discovery in several decades, if not a century.

    Seriously, could anyone's theory have anticipated this discovery?

    EDIT: Okay it might not be independently evolved from other lifeforms (gizmodo article was too sensationalist). But it's still amazing
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Ygggdrasil

    Ygggdrasil 1,569
    Science Advisor

    There is reason to doubt that the organisms' DNA really does contain arsenic instead of phosphorus:

    (http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/12/02/5564852-life-as-we-dont-know-it-on-earth)

    (https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/03/science/03arsenic.html)

    I'll reserve judgment until I've had time to fully read the study.
     
  4. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

  5. FlexGunship

    FlexGunship 740
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  6. Monique

    Monique 4,700
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    Actually its DNA normally contains phosphor, the discovery is that it can use arsenic when it doesn't have a source of phosphor. Very remarkable and important discovery, but I would not call it a new life form.
     
  7. FlexGunship

    FlexGunship 740
    Gold Member

    I've been known to use a little arsenic from time to time in my cooking. Wait... no... what's that called? Umm... allspice!
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2010
  8. So it has the ability, in an environment lacking phosphorus, to instead use arsenic in the DNA? Can their DNA contain arsenic completely as a 100% substitute for phosphorus?
     
  9. A comment someone posted on some website:
    "Now, if we could make bacteria that utilize germanium (two periods down from carbon) and arsenic, we'd have living semiconductors...think of it...somewhere in the universe Ge/As bacteria may have evolved into a transistor radio that plays "Duke of Earl"."
     
  10. Is the actual study released yet?

    Anticlimactic so far, I have to admit.
     
  11. Ahahhaha, love it.
     
  12. FlexGunship

    FlexGunship 740
    Gold Member

    No more Trekkie-style alien lovefests though. One kiss and you've got a mouthful of arsenic.
     
  13. Arsenic life always welcomed.
     
  14. Monique

    Monique 4,700
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    What I wonder is what the bacterium does instead of phosphorylation, in the absence of phosphor. Arsenicylation?
     
  15. Monique

    Monique 4,700
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    The original study: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2010/12/01/science.1197258
     
  16. bobze

    bobze 652
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    Gold Member

    Yes, its up at sciencemag.org. Just finished reading it and I have to say, I'm not sure why I let myself buy into all the "media hype". As these things normally are, it was over-sensationalized.

    The whole reason that arsenic is poisonous is because it is so chemically similar to phosphorous that our enzymes and biochemical pathways can't tell it apart. That an organism evolved the ability to cope with this hurdle under an environment of reduced phosphates and prevalent arsenates is pretty unremarkable considering how clever evolution can be. Certainly no less remarkable that vertebrates that don't use "blood", archaea that thrive in radioactive waste or boiling sulfuric acid or invertebrates that enjoy life at a cozy 176 F and 250+ atms.

    Probably the coolest implication from this discovery in my opinion, comes for origins of life research specifically for making nucleotides composed of a nucleoside and arsenate instead of nucleoside and phosphate. The upside to this, is that the reaction (nucleotide formation) happens much more rapid with arsenates and nucleosides (minutes) so could have possibly been the first use of nucleic acid material prior to more complex life.
     
  17. Are the implications that it uses arsenic in every way the same as it uses phosphorus or only in certain select aplications? Do they use Adenotriarsenate instead of Adenotriphosphate? IMHO if it only uses arsenic where its convienient and easy then its a cute biochemical trick, but if it uses ATAs......thats a real biochemical revolution!!!
     
  18. bobze

    bobze 652
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Right now, they aren't entirely sure. They found that arsenate was present in in the correct ratios that phosphates were to suggest it used them in DNA as well as protein and some lipid.

    So yes, they are suggesting that they form nucleoside (adenosine, guanosine, thymidine, cytidine and uridine) mono/di/triarsenates. But we await further confirmation.

    As I pointed out earlier, that wouldn't be so surprising because arsenates cause toxicity by your enzymes choosing them and will do this "naturally" because to them arsenate and phosphate is essentially identical. Which is unfortunately why arsenate poisons us lesser beings :)
     
  19. So, if you submerged bacteria in water (With aqueous germanium or silicon) with no source of carbon at all, would this eventually happen to the bacteria?
     
  20. What would happen if we ate this bacteria? Would it be like eating arsenic?
     
  21. Well yes but assumeing you cleansed it off first it would be a extreemly dilute dose, however if you were to dip your hand in the lake im pretty sure it could end badly.
     
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