Doctoral Studies

Biomolecular Chemistry - Field

Topic name: Origin of life theory

Supervisor: prof. RNDr. Jiří Šponer, DrSc.

Oficiální zadání:
The origin of life theory integrates a very broad spectrum of research areas, starting from the evolution of the planetary systems through the prebiotic synthesis of the building blocks of the leaving material up to simple cell models. From this great variety of fascinating problems theoretical chemistry methods can be applied to model prebiotic processes. The great advantage of this method in this field is that it enables a unique theoretical description of molecular systems which cannot be otherwise accessed by experimental methods due to the complexity of the matrix in which they occur. In particular, in our group we are interested in those processes, which led to the emergence of the first functional informational polymers from simple inorganic precursors. Together with leading experimental groups, we are working on unified theory how first replicating RNA molecules could emerge on earth, covering the whole process from synthesis of nucleic acid bases up to the first RNAs.
Below is a selections of our current research topics, which are also available for thesis.
Recently, we have addressed the mechanism of the formamide-based nucleobase synthesis, where our quantum chemical model has helped to understand the catalytic role of water molecules.
In combination with high-power laser experiments we have studied the high-energy impact chemistry of formamide. In these studies quantum chemical calculations have proposed a chemically plausible pathway from formamide to nucleobases using radical-chemistry. In addition, they have helped interpretation of the experimentally measured vibrational spectra and identification of unknown intermediates. In December 2014, our combined experimental/theory paper on nucleobase formation upon asteroid impacts during the Earth’s late heavy bombardment four billions years ago has been highlighted by the editorial board of Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. as reporting findings of exceptional significance. The results were subsequently reported worldwide in news (for Czech media coverage, see for example Respekt 5/2015. pp. 61-63.)
Finally, using a combination of experiments, state-of-the-art quantum chemical calculations and molecular dynamics simulations, we have provided a mechanistic proposal for the generation of short oligonucleotide sequences via polymerization of cyclic nucleotides as well as for the emergence of a simple ribozyme-like catalytic activity in short oligonucleotide sequences.

1. J. E. Sponer, A. Mladek, J. Sponer and M. Fuentes-Cabrera, J. Phys. Chem. A 2012, 116, 720-726.

2. M. Ferus, S. Civis, A. Mladek, J. Sponer, L. Juha and J. E. Sponer, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 20788-20796.

3. M. Ferus, D. Nesvorný, J. Šponer, P. Kubelík, R. Michalčíková, V. Shestivská, J. E. Šponer and S. Civiš, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2015, 112, 657-662.

4. J. E. Sponer, J. Sponer, A. Giorgi, E. Di Mauro, S. Pino, and G. Costanzo, J. Phys. Chem. B, 2015, in press.

5. P. Stadlbauer, J. Šponer, G. Costanzo, E. Di Mauro, S. Pino and J. E. Šponer, Chem. –Eur. J. 2015, in press.

Profil současného výzkumu lze zjistit i ze seznamu publikací

Kontakt: Prof. RNDr. Jiří Šponer, DrSc., Biofyzikální ústav AV ČR, Královopolská 135, 612 65 Brno, tel.: 541517133; fax: 420 5412 12179; e-mail:,

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