Free radical routes for prebiotic formation of DNA nucleobases from formamide†
Modeling the complicated chemical reactions in the interstellar medium and surface materials of Titan is nontrivial. Since both the atmosphere and the surface are rich in organic molecules, the chemistry may have important implications for the origin of biomolecules. Prebiotic synthesis of DNA nucleobases from simple molecules such as formamide has been known for more than half a century. In this study, new free radical pathways leading to the synthesis of guanine, hypoxanthine, purine, and adenine have been studied using density functional theory (B3LYP with the 6-311G(d,p) basis set). The pathways of the selected nucleobases demonstrate the importance of free radicals in the production of useful biomolecules under conditions appropriate for the interstellar medium or on Titan. The pathways may be universal in nature and proceed without solvent requirements. Calculations indicate that radical pathways yield lower reaction barriers as compared to previously reported pathways. Overall, these results suggest that the chemistry on Titan's surface and/or the growth of organic particulates in the haze layers in Titan's atmosphere likely involve free radicals. The mechanisms demonstrate that important prebiotic precursors can be predicted. The reaction sequences reported here may lead to the production and build-up of molecules with prebiotic relevance.