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Catalysts, autocatalysis and the origin of metabolism

Preiner, M; Xavier, JC; Vieira, ADN; Kleinermanns, K; Allen, JF; Martin, WF; (2019) Catalysts, autocatalysis and the origin of metabolism. Interface Focus , 9 (6) , Article 20190072. 10.1098/rsfs.2019.0072. Green open access

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Abstract

If life on Earth started out in geochemical environments like hydrothermal vents, then it started out from gasses like CO2, N2 and H2. Anaerobic autotrophs still live from these gasses today, and they still inhabit the Earth's crust. In the search for connections between abiotic processes in ancient geological systems and biotic processes in biological systems, it becomes evident that chemical activation (catalysis) of these gasses and a constant source of energy are key. The H2-CO2 redox reaction provides a constant source of energy and anabolic inputs, because the equilibrium lies on the side of reduced carbon compounds. Identifying geochemical catalysts that activate these gasses en route to nitrogenous organic compounds and small autocatalytic networks will be an important step towards understanding prebiotic chemistry that operates only on the basis of chemical energy, without input from solar radiation. So, if life arose in the dark depths of hydrothermal vents, then understanding reactions and catalysts that operate under such conditions is crucial for understanding origins.

Type: Article
Title: Catalysts, autocatalysis and the origin of metabolism
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rsfs.2019.0072
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsfs.2019.0072
Language: English
Additional information: Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ , which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: activation, catalysis, energy, hydrothermal vents, origin of life, prebiotic chemistry
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10084642
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