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Martian meteorite may have held life Feb. 10 2006, NewScientist.com news service Kimm Groshong A mix of carbon compounds filling the miniscule veins in a Martian meteorite has refuelled the debate on the possibility of life on Mars. Similarities between the carbon-rich filler and that found in fractured volcanic samples from the Earth's ocean floor dangle the possibility that life produced the Martian material, say scientists. A team of researchers led by David McKay and Everett Gibson of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, US, raise the scenario as just one possibility after extensively analysing new samples of the Nakhla meteorite. The UKs Natural History Museum recently provided the team with fresh samples from the interior of the meteorite, which broke into many pieces upon landing in Egypt in 1911. Near the tube-like veins in the rock, researchers found iddingsite a mineral also formed on Earth, mainly through alteration of an iron-based mineral called olivine by water. And within the cracks, they found carbon-rich material that appears dark brown or black. "Indigenous stuff" Astrobiologists look for carbon and water in their search for extraterrestrial life. Carbon is the building block of terrestrial life, forming the basis for organic chemistry, and water is necessary to support all forms of life on Earth. The team outlined possible sources of the carbon-containing components. Either a carbon-bearing impactor introduced them to Mars between 600,000 and 700,000 years ago or they are "products of biogenic activity and introduced by groundwater into the fracture features in Nakhla. Enzymes convert substrates to products reactions that make up steps in metabolic pathways Enzymes are catalysts that decrease activation energy of a reaction, bringing reactants together at physiological temperatures Enzymes often require cofactors or coenzymes. Coenzymes serve to transfer functional groups from one reaction to another, for example NAD is a coenzyme that transfers electrons. Enzymes control whether or not reactions occur. Enzyme activity can be regulated via binding of a regulatory molecule to the enzyme allosteric site. Some enzymes have allosteric sites. In Feedback inhibition the end product of the pathway serves as a regulator to an enzyme early in the pathway. When the endproduct is present the endproduct binds to the allosteric site, inhibiting the enzyme from binding to the substrate. The metabolic pathway cannot proceed past this reaction.... View Full Document

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