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Production of Potentially Prebiotic Condensed Phosphates by Phosphorus Redox Chemistry


  • We gratefully acknowledge NASA Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology grant NNX07AU08G and the NASA Astrobiology Institute to M.A.P., the Royal Society to M.A.P. and T.P.K., and the Leverhulme Trust grant F00/122/X to T.P.K. and D.E.B. for financial support. We thank Virginia Pasek for drawing Scheme 1.


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Bringing phosphorus to life: The prebiotic origin of key biomolecules such as RNA and ATP is contingent on a source of condensed phosphates, such as pyrophosphate and triphosphate. Condensed phosphates can be produced at high yields from the oxidation of H-phosphonate or H-phosphinate. Reactive phosphates were likely abundant on the early earth's surface, setting the stage for prebiotic chemistry that led to the evolution of life.