Experimental progress begins to fill gaps in hypotheses for life's emergence

August 23, 2013
Experimental progress begins to fill gaps in hypotheses for life's emergence

SFI Omidyar Fellow Rogier Braakman, in a commentary in PNAS, reviews two scientists' recent progress in simulating prebiotic chemistry at deep-sea hydrothermal vents and puts the research in the context of what we know, and what we still need to learn, about life's beginnings.

Scientists have long wondered whether deep-see hydrothermal vents—where unique , temperatures, and pressures combine to form seen nowhere else on Earth—might have been the crucibles for the earliest life.

Under one set of hypotheses known as "metabolism first," explains Braakman, life arose near these vents from combinations of self-reinforcing and increasingly complex energetic geochemical reaction networks that eventually became metabolism. Another set of hypotheses known as "genes/replication first" proposes that life arose from self-replicating polymers or clusters of lipids that gradually created metabolic reactions as a way to replace depleting supplies of interstellar or atmospheric chemical inputs.

Recent experiments by Yehor Novikov and Shelley Copley of the University of Colorado Boulder are filling in key gaps in the hypotheses involving self-reinforcing emerging from geochemistry, notes Braakman in a two-page review. He then assesses the state of knowledge for "metabolism first" and points to needed areas of study for origin of life research generally.

"Systematic studies of classes of natural organic chemistry, such as pursued by Novikov and Copley for hydrothermal vents, may thus help us not just in asking why life selected the forms of that it uses, but also to identify fundamental constraints in biology that result from that choice of chemistry," Braakman concludes.

Read Braakman's commentary in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (August 1, 2013, subscription required for full access).

Explore further: Was life inevitable? New paper pieces together metabolism's beginnings

Related Stories

Origin of life emerged from cell membrane bioenergetics

December 20, 2012

A coherent pathway which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells, has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis ...

Finding the roots and early branches of the tree of life

April 19, 2012

A study published in PLoS Computational Biology maps the development of life-sustaining chemistry to the history of early life. Researchers Rogier Braakman and Eric Smith of the Santa Fe Institute traced the six methods of ...

Shallow Origins

December 22, 2009

In finding answers to the mystery of the origin of life, scientists may not have to dig too deep. New research is shedding light on shallower waters as a possible location for where life on Earth began.

A waterworld of volcanoes

August 2, 2013

In 2008, UiB researchers discovered Loki's Castle, a field of five active hydrothermal vents on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Norway and Greenland. The field contains rich metal deposits and a unique wildlife.

Recommended for you

Scientists develop first catalysed reaction using iron salts

January 20, 2017

Scientists at the University of Huddersfield have developed a new chemical reaction that is catalysed using simple iron salts – an inexpensive, abundant and sustainable alternative to costlier and scarcer metals. The research ...

Chemists cook up new nanomaterial and imaging method

January 20, 2017

A team of chemists led by Northwestern University's William Dichtel has cooked up something big: The scientists created an entirely new type of nanomaterial and watched it form in real time—a chemistry first.

Gecko inspired adhesive can attach and detach using UV light

January 19, 2017

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers at Kiel University in Germany has developed new technology that emulates the way a gecko uses its toes to cling to flat surfaces. In their paper published in the journal Science Robotics, ...

Treated carbon pulls radioactive elements from water

January 19, 2017

Researchers at Rice University and Kazan Federal University in Russia have found a way to extract radioactivity from water and said their discovery could help purify the hundreds of millions of gallons of contaminated water ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

orti
1.4 / 5 (9) Aug 23, 2013
"... life selected the forms of organic chemistry that it uses ... "
No need for a designer, it designed itself.
beleg
1 / 5 (2) Aug 23, 2013
http://phys.org/n...ife.html
Researchers propose new way to look at the dawn of life.
Classical information theory is a nonphysical theory. Needs no carrier for information flow.
Quantum information theory is a physical theory without "a priori" and "a posteriori" correlations.
Designed so far with information for a hypothetical physical carrier to correlate information.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.