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Studies toward a prebiotic protometabolism

Coggins, Adam J.; (2017) Studies toward a prebiotic protometabolism. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Understanding the origin of life is one of the foremost challenges for science. Despite the immense diversity displayed by biology on the macroscopic scale, cellular biochemistry is at its most fundamental level remarkably uniform. Recognising the minimal elements of biochemistry required for a living system represents one task within origins of life research, whereas the other is understanding the organic chemistry which could have led to their spontaneous organisation on the abiotic Earth. Significant attention has been paid to the prebiotic generation and assembly of the components of nucleic acids resulting in the demonstration of important prebiotic syntheses and in the uncovering of various key problems which have seeded much informative discussion within the prebiotic community. However, experimental investigations into the assembly of key sets of ubiquitous metabolites have been comparatively lacking and will be necessary to assess the relevance of central metabolic pathways to the earliest stages in the development of life. Presented herein are investigations into the prebiotic chemistry of a selection of small molecules central to one of the most fundamental and highly conserved metabolic pathways found in biology; triose glycolysis. By utilising a prebiotically relevant method of specifically generating aldehyde-2-phosphates from simple sugar precursors, it has been shown that several intermediates common to glycolysis can be generated in high yield under mild, aqueous conditions in a simple step-wise sequence which culminates in the generation (for the first time under prebiotically relevant conditions) of the highest-energy organophosphate utilised by nature; phosphoenolpyruvate. Based on the demonstrated transformations, a potentially prebiotic network of glycolytic reactions is proposed, sharing common precursors and reaction conditions with important existing work within the field concerning the generation of nucleotides, amino-acids and lipids. The predisposition of hydroxy-aldehydes to glycolytically important transformations and the relationship of the proposed prebiotic network to extant glycolysis is discussed.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Studies toward a prebiotic protometabolism
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Chemistry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10038454
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