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This Week in Science: May 13, 2016

In Science this week, a group from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich report a chemical method to synthesize the nucleotide bases adenine and guanine at high quantities, providing evidence to support the theory that RNA was the original self-replicating molecule that gave rise to life on Earth. The RNA-world hypothesis posits that life arose from a set of small molecules assembled to produce nucleosides and later informational polymers capable of replicating themselves. But it has never been clear how the large and complex RNA components adenine and guanine originally formed. In their study, the researchers demonstrate that these two purines can be easily synthesized in fairly large quantities through the condensation of formamidopyrimidines with sugars — chemicals that are available from prebiotic molecules. They were also detected during the Rosetta comet mission, suggesting they were present in Earth's early atmosphere. 

Meanwhile, in Science Translational Medicine, a team led by Cincinnati Children's Research Foundation scientists present data identifying FOXF1 as a potential target in personalized treatments for metastatic prostate cancer. The researchers discovered that tumors from some prostate cancer patients express the gene encoding the transcription factor FOXF1, which is not expressed in normal prostate tissue. FOXF1 overexpression in mouse models of prostate cancer was found to increase tumor growth and metastasis, and boost the expression of genes in the MAPK signaling pathway. However, when FOXF1 or components of the MAPK pathway were suppressed, tumor metastasis and growth was slowed. The study's authors suggest that screening patients for FOXF1-positive tumors may enable doctors to personalize treatment using drugs that target the MAPK pathway.