Niraja Bapat and Dr. Sudha Rajamani from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, Maharashtra, India, received the Best Poster Award at ‘Origins 2014’, the second joint international conference of ISSOL (The International Astrobiology Society) and Bioastronomy (Commission 51 of the International Astronomical Union) held in Nara, Japan, during 6-11th July, 2014. The award winning poster was titled “Plausible Prebiotic Role of Molecular Crowding in Template Directed Nonenzymatic Replication of Nucleic Acids”.
Niraja Bapat is pursuing her doctoral research under the mentorship of Dr. Sudha Rajamani at IISER, Pune. The research work presented by her in the conference pertained to understanding the role of enzyme free replication of nucleic acids during the emergence and early evolution of life on prebiotic Earth.
“Given that the prebiotic soup would have actually been a complex mixture of many different molecular species, rather than being a concentrated solution of only certain specific types of monomeric molecules, we studied the effect/s of co-solutes on the rate and accuracy of template-directed nonenzymatic copying reactions. Our results indicate a lower accuracy in enzyme-free copying of RNA templates in the presence of co-solutes. This has implications for the overall fidelity of early nonenzymatic replication processes, which would have played a crucial role in the emergence and propagation of catalytically active polymers on prebiotic Earth”, Niraja explained.
Motivated by the interesting results of the study, Niraja wants to dig deeper into the characterization of the effect of molecular crowding on the prebiotic replication mechanisms.
Dr. Sudha Rajamani (Assistant Professor, IISER) heads theChemical Origins of Life (COoL) Laboratory at IISER Pune. The lab is involved in research on the processes by which polymers capable of catalysis and replication emerged and propagated on early Earth. “The problem of how life chemically originated is probably the most intriguing of all scientific questions, which is one of the main motivations for us to pursue problems in this area. In addition to this, research pertaining to this field is not only challenging in itself but also demands a very interdisciplinary approach in order to arrive at probable solutions. The outcome from origins of life research, particularly in the last few decades, has not only incredibly enriched our basic knowledge about concepts such as self-assembly and molecular evolution, but continues to help us discern some of the fundamental biochemical and biophysical principles that underlie all life processes. The COoL lab at IISER, Pune is proud to be a part of this small yet very driven ‘global family of scientists’ and we are confident our work will contribute towards a greater understanding of how informational molecules might have chemically originated and propagated on prebiotic Earth”, said Dr. Rajamani.
ISSOL organizes triennial international conference on origin of life to encourage interaction and collaboration among researchers from all over the world involved in theoretical and experimental aspects of origin of life and astrobiology. The next conference – ‘Origins 2017’ will be held at University of Alaska in Anchorage (Alaska, USA).