We describe the one-pot synthesis of a large variety of nucleic acid bases and related compounds from formamide in the presence of zirconium minerals as catalysts. The major products observed are: purine, 2-hydroxy pyrimidine, 5-hydroxy pyrimidine, isocytosine, adenine, urea, and carbodiimide. The synthesis of low molecular weight amides and carboxylic acid derivatives (intermediates of extant metabolism) was also observed: glyoxylamide, glycolic-, lactic-, succinic-, oxalic-, fumaric-, and maleic acids. As the major problem in the origin of informational polymers is the instability of their precursors, we also investigated the effects of zirconia minerals on the stability of ribooligonucleotides in formamide and in water. The relevance of these findings with respect to the origin of informational polymers and primordial metabolism is discussed. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
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