Chemical origin of life


The chemical origin of life refers to the conditions that might have existed and therefore promoted the first replicating life forms. It considers the physical and chemical reactions that could have led to early replicator molecules.

Latest Research and Reviews

  • Research | | open

    The synthesis of biopolymers in living cells is perfected by complex machinery, however this was not the case on early Earth. Here the authors show the role of non-enzymatic replication in the enrichment of certain products within prebiotically relevant mixtures.

    • Jayanta Nanda
    • , Boris Rubinov
    • , Denis Ivnitski
    • , Rakesh Mukherjee
    • , Elina Shtelman
    • , Yair Motro
    • , Yifat Miller
    • , Nathaniel Wagner
    • , Rivka Cohen-Luria
    •  & Gonen Ashkenasy
  • Research | | open

    Early molecules of life likely served both as templates and catalysts, raising the question of how functionally distinct genomes and enzymes arose. Here, the authors show that conflict between evolution at the molecular and cellular levels can drive functional differentiation of the two strands of self-replicating molecules and lead to copy number differences between the two.

    • Nobuto Takeuchi
    • , Paulien Hogeweg
    •  & Kunihiko Kaneko
  • Research | | open

    Coupling compartmentalisation and molecular replication is essential for the development of evolving chemical systems. Here the authors show an oil-in-water droplet containing a self-replicating amphiphilic imine that can undergo repeated droplet division.

    • J. W. Taylor
    • , S. A. Eghtesadi
    • , L. J. Points
    • , T. Liu
    •  & L. Cronin
  • Research |

    In situ infrared spectroscopy maps the occurrences of chemical bonds within tiny inclusions in 3,700-million-year-old metasedimentary rocks from West Greenland, finding greater evidence for organic life at this early date.

    • T. Hassenkam
    • , M. P. Andersson
    • , K. N. Dalby
    • , D. M. A. Mackenzie
    •  & M. T. Rosing
    Nature 548, 78–81
  • Research |

    Current mineral-based theories do not fully address how enzymes emerged from prebiotic catalysts. Now, iron–sulfur clusters can be synthesized by UV-light-mediated photolysis of organic thiols and photooxidation of ferrous ions. Iron–sulfur peptides may have formed easily on early Earth, facilitating the emergence of iron–sulfur-cluster-dependent metabolism.

    • Claudia Bonfio
    • , Luca Valer
    • , Simone Scintilla
    • , Sachin Shah
    • , David J. Evans
    • , Lin Jin
    • , Jack W. Szostak
    • , Dimitar D. Sasselov
    • , John D. Sutherland
    •  & Sheref S. Mansy
  • Research | | open

    The emergence of novel catalytic functions in ancient proteins likely played a role in the evolution of modern enzymes. Here, the authors use protein sequences from Precambrian beta-lactamases and demonstrate that a single hydrophobic-to-ionizable amino acid mutation can lead to substantial Kemp eliminase activity.

    • Valeria A. Risso
    • , Sergio Martinez-Rodriguez
    • , Adela M. Candel
    • , Dennis M. Krüger
    • , David Pantoja-Uceda
    • , Mariano Ortega-Muñoz
    • , Francisco Santoyo-Gonzalez
    • , Eric A. Gaucher
    • , Shina C. L. Kamerlin
    • , Marta Bruix
    • , Jose A. Gavira
    •  & Jose M. Sanchez-Ruiz

News and Comment