Research completed by Partha Basu, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at IUPUI, is receiving recognition by Nature.com, Scientific Reports. Basu worked in tandem with the lead researchers on the project at Duquesne University.
The study determined the evolutionary history and relationships for the dimethyl sulfoxide reductase family. The DMSO family is thought to be part of the first respiratory chains to break down organic matter without oxygen. The study found arsenic and selenium may have been more prevalent in the early evolution of life here on earth than previously known.
The researchers looked at more than 1,500 protein sequences of mononuclear molybdenum enzymes to determine which were the most ancient. Molybdenum is an important element, found in all forms of life.
“The molybdenum enzymes that were involved in methane, arsenic and selenium metabolism were indeed ancient,” said Basu, an expert in molybdenum enzymes.
The study has the potential to help environmental experts.
“This could help inform those who work with arsenic issues especially in places such as Bangladesh, where arsenic-contaminated drinking water leads to increases in cancer and other diseases,” said Basu. He adds that with this research, people should be open to the idea of life on other planets. “These kinds of analyses may provide clues as to how to look for life that does require oxygen to survive.”
The next phase of research will look at a larger number of enzymes and look into carbon metabolism, helping scientists understand the origin of life.