Origins of life: From the mineral to the biochemical world

  • Lambert J
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In this brief review, we summarize the most influential scenarios in origins-of- life studies that have resorted to minerals surfaces. The influence of the pre-existingmineral world on the organization of matter towards the living state may have manifested at several steps in the rise towards higher complexity. Small biomolecules such as amino acids formed on mineral surfaces of interstellar dust, meteorites or comets prior to their delivery to the primordial Earth. Mineral surfaces are known to promote the polymerization of these small molecules to the corresponding biopolymers (e.g. amino acids to proteins), and they may have oriented this polymerization to the formation of specific structures. Crucial steps of protometabolism could have originated on the surface of sulfide minerals. The most daring view of the prebiotic role of minerals holds that some of them may have carried genetic information subject to darwinian selection prior to the rise of nucleic acids, today’s genetic material. Finally, porous structures ranging from the nanometer to the micrometer probably helped protect the first proto-organisms from dilution and other damage. Future studies are expected to see progress towards molecular-level characterization, and to start accounting for the complexity of the prebiotic environment. 1.




Lambert, J.-F. (2015). Origins of life: From the mineral to the biochemical world. BIO Web of Conferences, 4, 00012.

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