Our commonly held beliefs about life on earth has now completely changed. Until recently, it has been believed that there were only six building blocks to life on earth. These building blocks include carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur. Phosphorous is extremely important as it is the an essential part in the chemical component of DNA and RNA. For those of you who do not know, DNA and RNA carry genetic instructions in an organism and it is thought to be essential to life. The importance of phosphorous stems from the fact that it is a main component of the energy carrying molecule adenosine triphosphate that exists in all cells. Arsenic on the other hand has a similar chemical property to phosophorous, but is completely toxic to cells. Instead of helping the energy distribution, it disrupts the metabolic pathways because it is so similar to phosphate. The question that is duping scientist now is how a microorganism is able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical of arsenic? What has recently come in to light is that this microorganism is able to substitute arsenic in its formation of cells instead of phosphorous, a completely unexpected discovery.
Researchers found this microorganism while they were studying Mono Lake in California. Researchers have been studying Mono Lake due to its unusual condition. Mono lake has been cut off from fresh water for over 50 years. Because of this situation, it has high salinity, high alkalinity, and high levels of arsenic. After discovering the microorganisms, scientists took them back to the lab in order to perform tests on them. They began feeding the organism phosphorous with generous helpings of arsenic. The phosphorous was eventually just taken away and replaced entirely with arsenic. The organisms shockingly continued to thrive in this environment. Not only that, but it began incorporating arsenic into the building blocks of its cells.
These findings will make us question everything we believe not only in regards to life on earth but life on other planets. It will broaden the way look for life in our solar system because we now have to think more diversely. The finding will also cause for a change in biology books due to its altered biochemistry. This discovery is said to be like something found in a science fiction movie. Never before was it imagined to actually occur. What is so interesting is that with everything we know about earth, we are discovering new things to counteract our commonly held beliefs. I wonder what will be discovered next.