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Protocells realize their potential

How the first metabolic network was organized to power a cell remains an enigma. Now, simple iron–sulfur peptides have been used to generate a pH-gradient across a protocell membrane by catalysing hydrogen peroxide reduction. This indicates that short peptides could have fulfilled the role of redox active metalloproteins in early life.

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Correspondence to Matthew W. Powner.

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Fig. 1: Prebiotic iron–sulfur peptides generate a pH gradient across vesicle membranes.