Organophosphorus Compound Formation Through the Oxidation of Reduced Oxidation State Phosphorus Compounds on the Hadean Earth


Chemistry and Biochemistry

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Reduced oxidation state phosphorus compounds may have been brought to the early Earth via meteorites or could have formed through geologic processes. These compounds could have played a role in the origin of biological phosphorus (P, hereafter) compounds. Reduced oxidation state P compounds are generally more soluble in water and are more reactive than orthophosphate and its associated minerals. However, to date no facile routes to generate C–O–P type compounds using reduced oxidation state P compounds have been reported under prebiotic conditions. In this study, we investigate the reactions between reduced oxidation state P compounds—and their oxidized products generated via Fenton reactions—with the nucleosides uridine and adenosine. The inorganic P compounds generated via Fenton chemistry readily react with nucleosides to produce organophosphites and organophosphates, including phosphate diesters via one-pot syntheses. The reactions were facilitated by NH4+ ions and urea as a condensation agent. We also present the results of the plausible stability of the organic compounds such as adenosine in an environment containing an abundance of H2O2. Such results have direct implications on finding organic compounds in Martian environments and other rocky planets (including early Earth) that were richer in H2O2 than O2. Finally, we also suggest a route for the sink of these inorganic P compounds, as a part of a plausible natural P cycle and show the possible formation of secondary phosphate minerals such as struvite and brushite on the early Earth. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

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Journal of Molecular Evolution

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