Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 June 2007
Panspermia, the dissemination of life through space, would require resistance to the conditions found in space, including UV light. All known life forms depend on DNA to store information. In an effort to understand the liabilities of DNA to UV light and modes of DNA protection in terrestrial life forms, we established UV–VUV (125–340 nm) absorption spectra for dry DNA and its polymerized components and mononucleotides, as well as for a selection of potential UV screens ubiquitous in all organisms, including proteins, selected amino acids and amines (polyamines and tyramine). Montmorillonite clay was included as a potential abiotic UV screen. Among the potential screens tested, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) appeared to be particularly attractive, because its UV absorption spectrum was similar to that of DNA. We suggest that the use of ATP in UV protection could have pre-dated its current role in energy transfer. Spectroscopy also showed that UV absorption varied according to nucleotide content, suggesting that base pair usage could be a factor in adaptation to given UV environments and the availability of UV screens.