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.

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  • News and Views |

    It’s not known how life’s essential properties of replication, metabolism and compartmentalization were first integrated. Two recent articles now shed light on how metabolic characteristics may be incorporated into replicating systems, harnessing an external energy source to increase their rate of replication and acquiring catalytic activity.

    • Pablo Solís-Muñana
    •  & Jack L. Y. Chen
    Nature Chemistry 12, 585-587
  • Research Highlights |

    Membranes formed from amphiphiles have been found to be more stable to possible prebiotic conditions — in terms of heat, pH and ionic strength — when formed from mixtures of components.

    • Andrew Bissette
  • News and Views |

    Proteins are biosynthesized from α-amino acids using hefty biological machinery, but the origin of this process on the early Earth is unclear. Now, a bottom-up approach for forming peptides, taking place under mild, prebiotically-plausible conditions, has been developed. This strategy uses α-aminonitrile precursors, bypassing α-amino acids entirely.

    • Robert Pascal
    •  & Irene A. Chen
    Nature Chemistry 11, 763-764
  • News and Views |

    The chemical functionality necessary for the origin of life may have emerged from simple reactions assembled into complex networks. Now, it has been shown that prebiotically relevant heterogeneous reaction networks can generate robust oscillations within complex mixtures comprised of precursors that do not oscillate on their own.

    • Nathaniel Wagner
    •  & Gonen Ashkenasy
    Nature Chemistry 11, 681-683