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Small Molecule Interactions were Central to the Origin of Life

Robert Shapiro
The Quarterly Review of Biology
Vol. 81, No. 2 (June 2006), pp. 105-126
DOI: 10.1086/506024
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/506024
Page Count: 22
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Small Molecule Interactions were Central to the Origin of Life
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Abstract

ABSTRACT Many scientists believe life began with the spontaneous formation of a replicator. This idea has been supported by “prebiotic” syntheses carried out by chemists using modern apparatus and purified reagents. The probability that such reactions would take place spontaneously on the early Earth is minute. These points are illustrated here by considering the often cited oligomerization of activated RNA components by clay minerals. A more likely alternative for the origin of life is one in which a collection of small organic molecules multiply their numbers through catalyzed reaction cycles, driven by a flow of available free energy. Although a number of possible systems of this type have been discussed, no experimental demonstration has been made. The inclusion of a “driver” reaction, directly coupled to the energy source, may lead to a solution.

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