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Keywords:

  • Prebiotic chemistry;
  • Chemo-autotrophic origin;
  • Volcanic origin;
  • Ligand-accelerated autocatalysis;
  • Peptide cycle;
  • Lipophilization;
  • Surface metabolism;
  • Surface lipophilization;
  • Enzymatization;
  • Metabolism;
  • Iron-sulfur world

Abstract

The theory of a chemo-autotrophic origin of life in a volcanic Iron-Sulfur World postulates the emergence of a pioneer organism within a flow of volcanic exhalations. The pioneer organism is characterized by a composite structure with an inorganic substructure and an organic superstructure. Within the surfaces of the inorganic substructure, iron, cobalt, nickel, and other transition-metal centers with sulfido, carbonyl, cyano, and other ligands are catalytically active, and promote the growth of the organic superstructure through carbon fixation, driven by the reducing potential of the volcanic exhalations. This pioneer organism is reproductive by an autocatalytic feedback effect, whereby some organic products serve as ligands for activating the catalytic metal centres whence they arise. This unitary structure–function relationship of the pioneer organism constitutes the ‘Anlage’ for two major strands of evolution: enzymatization and cellularization, whereby the upward evolution of life by increase of molecular complexity is grounded ultimately in the transition metal-catalyzed, synthetic redox chemistry of the pioneer organism.