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Geoffrey Zubay
Professor Emeritus
Epic discoveries made in the early 1980's that nucleic acids could function like enzymes provided the logical basis for an RNA-only world. In such a world, RNA is pictured as a molecule that can store useful information, undergo replication, change by the process of Darwinian selection and carry within itself a range of catalytic activities. This description is not too different from the known functions of RNA so it is not too difficult to imagine. But what of the developments that led to this RNA-only world? Where did the nucleotides that were used as building blocks for the first RNAs come from? Considerable research effort was directed to this problem in the 60s and 70s which subsequently subsided. In view of the RNA-only world hypothesis a resurgence of effort to find more effective pathways to the first nucleotides takes on added importance. That is the focus of our research at the present time.

Thus far my laboratory has made several contributions to our understanding of possible prebiotic pathways for the synthesis of the first nucleotides which I consider to be quite significant. We have found efficient conditions for the conversion of aminoimidazole carbonitrile (AICN) and aminoimidazole carboxamide (AICA) into adenine and hypoxanthine respectively. We have developed new and more effective methods for phosphorylation of nucleosides and nucleotides. We have developed a lead-catalyzed system for the synthesis of the aldopentoses with yields of about 30%. Presently we seek to improve the system for ribose synthesis and to resolve some of the other remaining problems in the prebiotic synthesis of activated adenosine and inosine nucleotides.

Professor Zubay did his undergraduate work and some graduate work at the University of Chicago, where he worked under Henry Taube and Willard Libby. He received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry at Harvard under Paul Doty. Postdoctoral work was done in England where he worked under M.H.F. Wilkins, P.B. Medawar and Hugh Huxley. Further postdoctoral work was done at Rockefeller University in the laboratory of Fritz Lipman.

Currently he is on the editorial board of two journals: Origins of Life, Chemtracts Biochem. and Mol. Biol.

Columbia News: Biology's Zubay Reflects on New Book, Agents of Bioterrorism

Curriculum Vitae
Representative Recent Publications
  • Medha Goyal, K. Kehoe and G. Zubay Runners Up submitted.
  • M. Nugent, E. Khandros, J. fang, and G. Zubay, A Prehiotic Pathway for the First Nucleotides Chemtracts In Press.
  • Coordinating Author: Geoffrey Zubay, Contributing Authors: Rian Balfour, Barbara Chubak, William Edstrom, Maria E. Garriodo, (In Press) Microbiology and Bioterrorism Columbia University Press 400 pages.
  • M. Nugent, P. Permalsamy and G. Zubay (2004) Stereoselective Interaction of D. and L-Ribose Mediated by Divalent Lead Chemtracts, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 17 486-492:
  • Zubay, G (2003) A Ribozyme Composed of Only Two Different Nucleotides Chemtracts 16:1-8: A Commentary.
  • Zubay, G (2001) Efficacy and Safety of a Specific Inhibitor of the BCR-ABL Tyrosine Kinase in Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Chemtracts 14: 733-738: A Commentary.
  • Zubay,G (2003) The Glyoxylate Cycle, a Possible Evolutionary Precursor of the TCA Cycle Chemtracts 16: 783-788:
  • Zubay, G. and Schechter (2001) A New thoughts on the Origin of Biochirality Chemtracts 14: 291-296:
  • Zubay, G (1999) Introduction on Origins of Life Chemtracts 12:1-7:
  • Schechter, A. and Zubay, G (2001) A Central Role for Sugars in Prebiotic Chemistry pp 42 – 51 in Fundamentals of Life Editors scientifiques et medicoles Elsevier SAS
  • Zubay, G. and Schechter (2001) Prebiotic Routes for the Synthesis and Separation of Ribose Chemtracts-Biochem and Mol. Biol 14:117-124:
  • Zubay, G (2000) Biochemical Pathways May provide Leads for Prebiotic Pathways Chemtracts 13, 357:
  • Zubay (2000) Contribution on the Catabolite Gene Activator Protein McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Genetics
  • Zubay, G and Schechter, A (2000) Current Status of the RNA-Only World Chemtracts 13, 836:
  • Zubay, G (January 2000) Origins of Life on the Earth and in the Cosmos, 2nd edition Academic Press 600 pages.
  • Zubay, G., and Mui, T. (2001) Prebiotic Synthesis of Nucleotide Chemtracts 31: 87-102:
  • Zubay, G (1999) Synthesis of the First Nucleotides Chemtracts Biochem and Mol. Biol 12, 432:
  • Reimann, R., and Zubay, G (1999) Nucleoside Phosphorylation: A Feasible Step in to Prebiotic Pathway to RNA. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere 29: 222-247:
  • Zubay, G (1998) Biochemistry, 4th ed WCB/McGraw-Hill 990+ pages.
  • Zubay, G. (1998) Studies on the Lead-Catalyzed Synthesis of Aldopentoses. Origins of Life and Evol. Of the Biosphere 28:13-26:
  • Zubay, G (1997) Did Carbohydrates Provide Carbon Skeletons for the First Amino Acids to be Synthesized on Planet Earth? Chemtracts, Biochem and Mol. Biol., 10, 407:
  • Zubay, G (1996) Arguments in Favor of an AII-Purine RNA First Chemtracts, Biochem and Mol. Biol 6: 251-260:
  • Zubay, G (1996) Gene Regulation Studies in the Early Days Chemtracts, Biochem and Mol. Biol., 6: 85-99:
Geoffrey Zubay