NASA Life Discovery: New Bacteria Makes DNA With Arsenic
No, NASA didn't find life on another world. But scientists did uncover a new species of bacteria that's perhaps the most ''alien'' yet seen.
A new species of bacteria found in California's Mono Lake is the first known life-form that uses arsenic to make its DNA and proteins, scientists announced today. (Get a genetics overview.)
Dubbed the GFAJ-1 strain, the bacteria can substitute arsenic for phosphorus, one of the six main "building blocks" for most known life. The other key ingredients for life are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur.
(Related: "Saturn's Largest Moon Has Ingredients for Life?")
Arsenic is toxic to most known organisms, in part because it can mimic the chemical properties of phosphorus, allowing the poison to disrupt cellular activity.
The newfound bacteria, described online this week in the journal