Phosphorus, as phosphate, plays a paramount role in biology. Since phosphate transfer reactions are an integral part of contemporary life, phosphate may have been incorporated into the initial molecules at the very beginning. To facilitate the studies into early phosphate utilization, we should look retrospectively to phosphate-rich molecules present in today’s cells. Overlooked by origin of life studies until now, inositol and the inositol phosphates, of which some species possess more phosphate groups that carbon atoms, represent ideal molecules to consider in this context. The current sophisticated association of inositol with phosphate, and the roles that some inositol phosphates play in regulating cellular phosphate homeostasis, intriguingly suggest that inositol might have played some role in the prebiotic process of phosphate exploitation. Inositol can be synthesized abiotically and, unlike glucose or ribose, is chemically stable. This stability makes inositol the ideal candidate for the earliest organophosphate molecules, as primitive inositol phosphates. I also present arguments suggesting roles for some inositol phosphates in early chemical evolution events. Finally, the possible prebiotic synthesis of inositol pyrophosphates could have generated high-energy molecules to be utilized in primitive trans-phosphorylating processes.
Saiardi, A. (2017). Has inositol played any role in the origin of life? Life, 7(2). https://doi.org/10.3390/life7020024