We describe the one-pot synthesis of a large panel of nucleic bases and related compounds from formamide in the presence of iron sulfur and iron-copper sulfur minerals as catalysts. The major products observed are purine, 1H-pyrimidinone, isocytosine, adenine, 2-aminopurine, carbodiimide, urea, and oxalic acid. Isocytosine and 2-aminopurine may recognize natural nucleobases by Watson-Crick and reverse Watson-Crick interactions, thus suggesting novel scenarios for the origin of primordial nucleic acids. Since the major problem in the origin of informational polymers is the instability of their precursors, we also investigate the effects of iron sulfur and iron-copper sulfur minerals on the stability of ribooligonucleotides in formamide and in water. All of the iron sulfur and iron-copper sulfur minerals stimulated degradation of RNA. The relevance of these findings with respect to the origin of informational polymers is discussed. © 2008 American Chemical Society.
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