Next Article in Journal
Acknowledgement to Reviewers of Life in 2017
Previous Article in Journal
Kin Selection in the RNA World
Article Menu

Export Article

Open AccessArticle

Hydrogen Bonds and Life in the Universe

1
INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Trieste, Via G.B. Tiepolo 11, 34143 Trieste, Italy
2
International Center for Theoretical Physics, Strada Costiera, 11, 34151 Trieste, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 22 November 2017 / Revised: 18 December 2017 / Accepted: 18 December 2017 / Published: 3 January 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Astrobiology)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1009 KB, uploaded 3 January 2018]   |  

Abstract

The scientific community is allocating more and more resources to space missions and astronomical observations dedicated to the search for life beyond Earth. This experimental endeavor needs to be backed by a theoretical framework aimed at defining universal criteria for the existence of life. With this aim in mind, we have explored which chemical and physical properties should be expected for life possibly different from the terrestrial one, but similarly sustained by genetic and catalytic molecules. We show that functional molecules performing genetic and catalytic tasks must feature a hierarchy of chemical interactions operating in distinct energy bands. Of all known chemical bonds and forces, only hydrogen bonds are able to mediate the directional interactions of lower energy that are needed for the operation of genetic and catalytic tasks. For this reason and because of the unique quantum properties of hydrogen bonding, the functional molecules involved in life processes are predicted to have extensive hydrogen-bonding capabilities. A molecular medium generating a hydrogen-bond network is probably essential to support the activity of the functional molecules. These hydrogen-bond requirements constrain the viability of hypothetical biochemistries alternative to the terrestrial one, provide thermal limits to life molecular processes, and offer a conceptual framework to define a transition from a “covalent-bond stage” to a “hydrogen-bond stage” in prebiotic chemistry. View Full-Text
Keywords: life in the universe; molecular processes; hydrogen bonding; habitability life in the universe; molecular processes; hydrogen bonding; habitability
Figures

Graphical abstract

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
SciFeed

Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Vladilo, G.; Hassanali, A. Hydrogen Bonds and Life in the Universe. Life 2018, 8, 1.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Related Articles

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics

1

Comments

[Return to top]
Life EISSN 2075-1729 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top