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Dr. Bruce Damer @ QAU Pakistan-The Origin of Life & Life in the Universe

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Dr. Bruce Damer presents a talk linking the new "Hot Spring Hypothesis" for the origin of life to the search for life in our Solar System and beyond on exoplanets. His host, the renowned physicist and activist Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, hosted this talk at the Physics department auditorium at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad , Pakistan. Dr. Bruce “inflamed the minds” of Pakistani students and professors alike as he took them on a rapid romp through life’s possible origins on Earth to the search for evidence for life on Mars in 2020, icy Enceladus in the next decade and onward to the likelihood of life on exoplanets. Dr. Bruce Damer and Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy (presenters), Elixir Technologies Pakistan (recording and support). [presented 17 November 2017]. Find a podcast with audio, video and additional information about this presentation at: http://www.levityzone.org/lz-episode-059-origins-science-comes-pakistan/

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Dr. Bruce Damer @ QAU Pakistan-The Origin of Life & Life in the Universe

  1. 1. The Hot Spring Hypothesis for the Origin of Life: implications for science and the search for life on Mars, Enceladus and Exoplanets QAU, Islamabad, Pakistan 10 November, 2017 Bruce Damer, University of California, Santa Cruz David Deamer, Martin Van Kranendonk, Malcolm Walter, Tara Djokic
  2. 2. The Science of the Origin of Life: Charles Darwin’s intuition-1871 "But if (and oh what a big if) we could conceive in some warm little pond with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity etcetera present, that a protein compound was chemically formed, ready to undergo still more complex changes [..] " ~Charles Darwin, in a letter to Joseph Hooker (1871)
  3. 3. The Science of Origin of Life: 1920s-50s Haldane-Oparin “soups” Alexander Oparin's and J. B. S. Haldane's hypothesis: putative conditions on the primitive Earth favored chemical reactions that synthesized more complex organic compounds from simpler inorganic precursors. 1953-Miller-Urey spark chamber synthesis Synthesis of amino acids launched experimental phase of origin of life research. 1977 Discovery-deep sea hydrothermal vents Suggested as a location for an origin of life by Corliss, Russell, Martin, Lane et al. Polymerization and encapsulation not yet demonstrated. -> Chemistry community now returning its focus to land-based pools.
  4. 4. A search for life’s origins A “Field Trip to the Archaean” (July 2015)
  5. 5. Living stromatolites of Shark Bay
  6. 6. Onwards to the Pilbara
  7. 7. Stromatolites 2.6-3.5 Billion Years Old
  8. 8. Stromatolites 2.6-3.5 Billion Years Old
  9. 9. The earliest evidence of life on land discovered in 3.5 Ga preserved strata of fresh water hot springs in Western Australia* is suggestive of an earlier fresh water origin of life. Hot Spring Geyserite with Microbial Fabrics, 3.5Ga Qz B - Terracettes with palisade fabric (silicified microbial filaments) - Oxygen or hydrothermal gases trapped in EPS as bubbles (?)
  10. 10. Observed continuity in the rock record from the earliest evidence for life in the fresh water stromatolites of the Dresser Formation to the living marine stromatolites at Shark Bay. Hot Spring Geyserite with Microbial Fabrics, 3.5Ga Dresser-geyserite with stromatolites, fresh water hot spring @ 3.5Ga Dresser-subsurface vein stromatolites @ 3.5Ga Shark Bay-living marine stromatolites Tumbiana-lakeshore stromatolites @ 2.7Ga
  11. 11. The “Goldilocks chemistry” (Joyce) for an origin of life is found in inland hydrothermal “warm little fluctuating pools”. ExtremeOptimal time
  12. 12. collect concentrate cycle adapt stress distribute “Pools of fitness” and downhill distribution provides resources and evolutionary gradients for early life Early life on Earth had hundreds of millions of years to establish robust adaptations such as photoautotrophy and protein synthesis.
  13. 13. Field testing the hypothesis: “Hot Little Pool” Kamchatka Russia Pools collect & concentrate molecular inventories: meteoritic (IDPs) and hydrothermal sources for nucleobases, amino acids, fatty acids, key elements (C, Zn, B, P, and N), minerals for prebiotic chemistry. Access to 3 energy sources: heat activation, dehydration and sunlight. Regular wet-dry cycling in presence of membranes to drive polymerization reactions. Membraneous structures form in hydrothermal field conditions from 14 carbon fatty acid, glycerol, Phosphate, @ pH 3. Feedstock from meteoritic compounds concentrating on land.
  14. 14. Hydration-dehydration cycling – David Deamer 1980s CO2 atmosphere, 85 C, pH 3 Discovery: prebiotic, non-enzymatic polymerization -> RNA-like polymers are produced through a few cycles of 4-24 hours. Hydration-dehydration cycles with nucleobases (A, U) in presence of lipid H2O rehydrationCO2 dehydration Hydration-dehydration of amino acids ->peptides (Hud, Cronin, ELSI). -> Gels: 40-150mer polymer of A+U. Nanopore sequencing identifies polymers.
  15. 15. 2 nucleobases (A,U) + amphiphile (Phosphatidylcholine) @ pH 3 Polymerization of RNA-like polymers has now been observed in exposure to hydrothermal field conditions Field testing the hypothesis: fumarole polymerization Bumpass Hell, Mount Lassen Volcanic Park, California
  16. 16. Downward flow, upward adaptation gradient still visible today The role of silica gels in microbial filaments and sinter endoliths New Insights from Yellowstone fieldwork July 2017 Research conducted under Yellowstone Research Permit YELL-2017-SCI-7020
  17. 17. Lipid: decanoic acid+ decanoyl monoglyceride Monomers: dAMP+TMP Fluorescent stain: DAPI Cyclic polymerization of nucleotides works both in presence of clay or dissolved silica. When dried lipid layers are exposed to rehydration, large numbers of vesicles “bud off” some containing random polymers. Each provides an experiment in a natural process of combinatorial selection for function (stabilization, pores, metabolism). Encapsulation of synthesized polymers
  18. 18. A metaphor from computer science…
  19. 19. Mechanism for an Origin of Life in a Cycling Hot Spring Pool Laboratory demonstration of synthesis of polymers and encapsulation within protocells through three coupled phases The rate of polymer synthesis exceeds the rate of hydrolysis so a kinetic trap is created permitting continuous re-synthesis and combinatorial selection of functional polymers driving molecular evolution to a Woese/Fox progenote and then to a living system. Dehydration synthesis of polymers-RNA and peptides- between lipid lamellae Encapsulation of polymers in protocells Delivery of surviving protocells to interactive gel phase Testing of protocells for stability Protocells dry, fuse back into lamellae, transfer polymers
  20. 20. A Hot Spring Origin of Life …ultimately gives rise to LUCA and marine stromatolites 2. Accumulation 1. Synthesis 3. Concentration 5. Distribution 6. Adaption 7. Colonization 4.Cycling
  21. 21. Scientific American, August 2017 cover story Hot Spring Model: Public Interest Qz B
  22. 22. And now on to Mars: the Search for Life in the Inner Solar System
  23. 23. History: hand count that sent Spirit to Gusev JPL final MER landing site selection meeting-Jan 2003
  24. 24. Today: 3rd Mars2020 landing site selection meeting-Feb 2017
  25. 25. How the Hot Spring Hypothesis for an Origin of Life can Guide Mars Exploration (Mars2020 Rover) In a search for evidence of ancient life in the earliest (Noachian) history of Mars, it would be useful to apply a chemical and geological framework for an origin of life on any terrestrial world. Recent discoveries providing a body of evidence: Pilbara 3.5Ga terrestrial hot springs are a primary early driver for life on Earth; new laboratory discoveries suggest a viable chemical pathway. Applying these principles we can posit when, where, and how long life needs to start and robustly establish on Earth or Mars. Early life on Mars would be in a race against a rapidly retracting habitable environment. Therefore if hot springs are a likely place where life can start, they are also a likely place to search for the last and best preserved accessible evidence for past life.
  26. 26. Columbia Hills Landing Ellipse Proposer identifie regions of interest J.W. Rice
  27. 27. Inner Basin and Home Plate J.W. Rice
  28. 28. Columbia Hills Region: Geologic Processes and Diversity Processes Impact Plains Volcanism Hydro-Volcanism Fluvial Lacustrine Aeolian Diversity Silica Carbonates Sulfates Basalts J.W. Rice
  29. 29. Opaline Silica Deposits (up to 91 wt % SiO2) located near Home Plate. These silica-rich deposits (light- toned soils & bedrock) are interpreted to have formed in hot springs. Terrestrial hydrothermal environments support thriving microbial ecosystems. Silica precipitation well known to promote biosignature preservation.
  30. 30. Spirit “split rocks” through wheel scuffing action under the weight of the vehicle
  31. 31. Innocent Bystander 1 cm MI image: Coated grains (Ruff et al., 2011) El Tatio coated breccia (same scale) -> The need to break rocks Nodular Silica Textures
  32. 32. Breaking Rock in the Pilbara 3.5Ga stromatolite
  33. 33. Reasons to Return to the Columbia Hills Key advantage and unique aspect of this landing site is that we already know exactly where we need to go and have already found significant astrobiologic and geologic samples to be collected, complements of Spirit. J.W. Rice
  34. 34. Outer Solar System: Life on Enceladus?
  35. 35. Where on Earth? Two sites -- vents and fields “Black smokers” Alkaline vents Hydrothermal field Salty sea water Fresh water
  36. 36. Methanogenic microorganisms could exist in the Enceladus ocean, but they would require nutrients and a source of chemical energy such as hydrogen. There is no light, and no photosynthesis. Methanocaldococcus
  37. 37. Hydrothermal vents: Physics, chemistry and biology Abundant microbial life exists in the absence of light energy Salty sea water: ca. 600 mM NaCl, 54 mM MgCl2, 10 mM CaCl2 Potential sources of energy: Redox potentials, pH gradients, thermal gradients Hydrogen in solution provides reducing power Abundant trace metals Potential limitations Dilution of potential reactants and products into surrounding sea water No demonstrated concentrating capacity in actual vent minerals No demonstrated containers in vent minerals Thermodynamic barrier to condensation reactions Salt concentration and divalent cations inhibit membrane assembly
  38. 38. Hydrothermal fields: Physics, chemistry and biology Abundant thermophilic microbial life Fresh water from precipitation Acidic pH from sulfur compounds, carbon dioxide Cycles of dehydration and rehydration Reactants extremely concentrated by evaporation Potential sources of energy: Concentration effects, light energy Condensation reactions are thermodynamically feasible Self-assembly of amphiphilic membranes is possible Polymerization has been demonstrated Potential limitations What sources of organic compounds provide reactants? Clay minerals may adsorb potential reactants Reactions that could lead to metabolism have not been demonstrated No obvious source of reducing power Minimal trace metals
  39. 39. If life can begin in hydrothermal vent conditions, then life could emerge in the Enceladus ocean and may still exist. If the origin of life requires fluctuating hydrothermal fields, Enceladus and Europa may be habitable but lifeless. Early Mars had abundant volcanism and hydrothermal fields. These conditions are conducive for the origin of life, so life could have emerged on Mars just as it did on Earth and may still exist as halophilic extremophiles in Martian brines. Summary I – Enceladus and Mars
  40. 40. Summary II – Enceladus Predictions What might be detected in samples of Enceladus plumes? (silicon nanopore instrument design at UCSC) If the ocean is sterile, it is likely to be a dilute solution of the kinds of small molecules present in carbonaceous chondrites: monocarboxylic acids, amino acids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, alkanes, trace amounts of purines. If microbial life originated and still exists, the biosignatures will include fragments of polymers, specialized species of hydrocarbons and enantiomeric excesses of chiral molecules.
  41. 41. And now beyond to Exoplanets: Earthlike Planets, Hot & Close
  42. 42. Exoplanets: TRAPPIST-1 System, 7 Earthlike planets, red dwarf Exoplanets in a habitable zone
  43. 43. Artist’s Conceptions of Exoplanet Life Life requires polymers with encapsulation & combinatorial selection -> aqueous carbon (not exotic) chemistry
  44. 44. Collaborators and Supporters UC Santa Cruz Australian Centre for Astrobiology Univ. New South Wales McMaster University Center for Chemical Evolution, Georgia Tech. Cronin Lab, University of Glasgow Acknowledgements University of Paris University of Washington Harry Lonsdale Research Award NASA DigitalSpace Research Thanks to QAU, Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy and the Lahore Astronomical Society for inviting and supporting this talk Biota Institute: origins.biota.org Contact: Bruce Damer bdamer@ucsc.edu

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