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Special Issue "Origin of Life 2011"

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A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Physical Chemistry, Theoretical and Computational Chemistry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2011)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Jack Green

Department of Geological Sciences, California State University Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd. Long Beach, CA 90840-3902, USA
Website | E-Mail
Fax: +1 562 985 8638
Interests: volcanic mechanisms; protolife in archean fumaroles
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Robert Root-Bernstein

Department of Physiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48823 USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: 517-336-8444
Interests: prebiotic chemical ecology; origins of life; origins of genetic code; origins of homochirality; molecular complementarity; origins of cellular transporters and receptors; STEM education; scientific creativity

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Origin of life research needs to question assumptions and search for integration. For example, most authorities assert that water is necessary for the emergence of life, but if it were not, what new possibilities emerge? Where life depends on water , there are two candidate origins, exogenic (cometary) and endogenic (volcanic or cryovolcanic).How does the origin of water affect the possibility, localization and timing of reactions necessary to water-based life? There is water at the poles of our moon and on two of the moons of Saturn, Enceladus and Titan, much of this is in the form of ice mixed with hydrocarbons.  Might these conditions also give rise to life? Can we integrate these various questions by thinking about the origin of life not as a question of specific molecules coming into being (an RNA-  or protein- or lipid- or sugar-world) but as geologically and geographically-localized chemical ecologies comprised of complex, interactive families of molecules spontaneously giving rise to the ordered constructs when their complexity reaches some critical cusp? Can we relate such geochemical ecologies to the specific forms of life that evolve, thereby explaining  the emergence of sulphur-utilizing bacteria in one environment, photosynthetic bacteria in another, and perhaps arsenic-utilizing ones in  a third? Questions like these are designed to attract submissions to this special volume that challenge our assumptions, suggest novel interrelationships or present original integrative theories. What have we missed? What kinds of research should we be doing that we are not? What uncut gems have we overlooked or lost by ignoring past classics such as J. D. Bernal’s Origin of Life or Harold Morowitz’s Mayonnaise and the Origin of Life? We encourage contributors to this volume to facet those gems and to discover some new one as well!

Prof. Dr. Jack Green
Prof. Dr. Robert Root-Bernstein
Guest Editors

Keywords

  • water
  • GFAJ-1
  • eenceladus
  • titan
  • moon
  • LCROSSS
  • Chandrayaan-1
  • geochemical
  • ecology
  • integrativetheory
  • complementarity

Related Special Issues

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Academic Aspects of Lunar Water Resources and Their Relevance to Lunar Protolife
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2011, 12(9), 6051-6076; doi:10.3390/ijms12096051
Received: 4 August 2011 / Accepted: 31 August 2011 / Published: 19 September 2011
PDF Full-text (1597 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Water ice has been discovered on the moon by radar backscatter at the North Pole and by spectrometry at the South Pole in the Cabeus crater with an extrapolated volume for both poles of conservatively 109 metric tons. Various exogenic and endogenic
[...] Read more.
Water ice has been discovered on the moon by radar backscatter at the North Pole and by spectrometry at the South Pole in the Cabeus crater with an extrapolated volume for both poles of conservatively 109 metric tons. Various exogenic and endogenic sources of this water have been proposed. This paper focuses on endogenic water sources by fumaroles and hot springs in shadowed polar craters. A survey of theoretical and morphological details supports a volcanic model. Release of water and other constituents by defluidization over geological time was intensified in the Hadean Eon (c.a. 4600 to 4000 My). Intensification factors include higher heat flow by now-extinct radionuclides, tidal flexing and higher core temperatures. Lesser gravity would promote deeper bubble nucleation in lunar magmas, slower rise rates of gases and enhanced subsidence of lunar caldera floors. Hadean volcanism would likely have been more intense and regional in nature as opposed to suture-controlled location of calderas in Phanerozoic Benioff-style subduction environments. Seventy-seven morphological, remote sensing and return sample features were categorized into five categories ranging from a volcano-tectonic origin only to impact origin only. Scores for the most logical scenario were 69 to eight in favor of lunar volcanism. Ingredients in the Cabeus plume analysis showed many volcanic fluids and their derivatives plus a large amount of mercury. Mercury-rich fumaroles are well documented on Earth and are virtually absent in cometary gases and solids. There are no mercury anomalies in terrestrial impact craters. Volcanic fluids and their derivatives in lunar shadow can theoretically evolve into protolife. Energy for this evolution can be provided by vent flow charging intensified in the lunar Hadean and by charge separation on freezing fumarolic fluids in shadow. Fischer-Tropsch reactions on hydrothermal clays can yield lipids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and amino acids. Soluble polyphosphates are available in volcanic fluids as well as vital catalysts such as tungsten. We conclude that the high volume of polar water resources supports the likelihood of lunar volcanism and that lunar volcanism supports the likelihood of protolife. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Origin of Life 2011)
Open AccessArticle Origin of Evolution versus Origin of Life: A Shift of Paradigm
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2011, 12(6), 3445-3458; doi:10.3390/ijms12063445
Received: 28 March 2011 / Revised: 24 May 2011 / Accepted: 25 May 2011 / Published: 1 June 2011
Cited by 11 | PDF Full-text (222 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The question of the primordial ancestor must be approached through the search for the origin of evolution, not through the search for the origin of life. There is a major issue with the concept of life because it is impossible to define, thus
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The question of the primordial ancestor must be approached through the search for the origin of evolution, not through the search for the origin of life. There is a major issue with the concept of life because it is impossible to define, thus is not a scientific but a metaphysical concept. On the contrary, evolution may be defined by as few as three conditions. These do not necessarily involve biopolymers. However, such an approach must give clues to explain the emergence of distinct lineages to allow Darwinian natural selection. A plausible solution exists within an autotrophic lipidic vesicle-based model that is presented. The model requires the existence of hydrothermal sites such as the Lost City Hydrothermal Field leading to specific constraints. For this reason Mars and Europa may be questioned as possible cradles of evolution. If we replace the search for the origin of life by the one for the origin of evolution our priority first is to find a consensus on the minimal conditions that would allow evolution to emerge and persist anywhere in the universe. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Origin of Life 2011)
Open AccessArticle Supernovae, Neutrinos and the Chirality of Amino Acids
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2011, 12(6), 3432-3444; doi:10.3390/ijms12063432
Received: 19 April 2011 / Revised: 12 May 2011 / Accepted: 20 May 2011 / Published: 31 May 2011
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (220 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
A mechanism for creating an enantioenrichment in the amino acids, the building blocks of the proteins, that involves global selection of one handedness by interactions between the amino acids and neutrinos from core-collapse supernovae is defined. The chiral selection involves the dependence of
[...] Read more.
A mechanism for creating an enantioenrichment in the amino acids, the building blocks of the proteins, that involves global selection of one handedness by interactions between the amino acids and neutrinos from core-collapse supernovae is defined. The chiral selection involves the dependence of the interaction cross sections on the orientations of the spins of the neutrinos and the 14N nuclei in the amino acids, or in precursor molecules, which in turn couple to the molecular chirality. It also requires an asymmetric distribution of neutrinos emitted from the supernova. The subsequent chemical evolution and galactic mixing would ultimately populate the Galaxy with the selected species. The resulting amino acids could either be the source thereof on Earth, or could have triggered the chirality that was ultimately achieved for Earth’s proteinaceous amino acids. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Origin of Life 2011)
Open AccessArticle Required Levels of Catalysis for Emergence of Autocatalytic Sets in Models of Chemical Reaction Systems
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2011, 12(5), 3085-3101; doi:10.3390/ijms12053085
Received: 18 February 2011 / Revised: 18 April 2011 / Accepted: 5 May 2011 / Published: 12 May 2011
Cited by 27 | PDF Full-text (175 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The formation of a self-sustaining autocatalytic chemical network is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the origin of life. The question of whether such a network could form “by chance” within a sufficiently complex suite of molecules and reactions is one that
[...] Read more.
The formation of a self-sustaining autocatalytic chemical network is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the origin of life. The question of whether such a network could form “by chance” within a sufficiently complex suite of molecules and reactions is one that we have investigated for a simple chemical reaction model based on polymer ligation and cleavage. In this paper, we extend this work in several further directions. In particular, we investigate in more detail the levels of catalysis required for a self-sustaining autocatalytic network to form. We study the size of chemical networks within which we might expect to find such an autocatalytic subset, and we extend the theoretical and computational analyses to models in which catalysis requires template matching. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Origin of Life 2011)

Review

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Open AccessReview Far from Equilibrium Percolation, Stochastic and Shape Resonances in the Physics of Life
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2011, 12(10), 6810-6833; doi:10.3390/ijms12106810
Received: 27 July 2011 / Revised: 5 October 2011 / Accepted: 7 October 2011 / Published: 14 October 2011
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (1135 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Key physical concepts, relevant for the cross-fertilization between condensed matter physics and the physics of life seen as a collective phenomenon in a system out-of-equilibrium, are discussed. The onset of life can be driven by: (a) the critical fluctuations at the protonic percolation
[...] Read more.
Key physical concepts, relevant for the cross-fertilization between condensed matter physics and the physics of life seen as a collective phenomenon in a system out-of-equilibrium, are discussed. The onset of life can be driven by: (a) the critical fluctuations at the protonic percolation threshold in membrane transport; (b) the stochastic resonance in biological systems, a mechanism that can exploit external and self-generated noise in order to gain efficiency in signal processing; and (c) the shape resonance (or Fano resonance or Feshbach resonance) in the association and dissociation processes of bio-molecules (a quantum mechanism that could play a key role to establish a macroscopic quantum coherence in the cell). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Origin of Life 2011)
Open AccessReview Molecular Basis for Chiral Selection in RNA Aminoacylation
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2011, 12(7), 4745-4757; doi:10.3390/ijms12074745
Received: 24 May 2011 / Revised: 29 June 2011 / Accepted: 18 July 2011 / Published: 22 July 2011
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (859 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The chiral-selective aminoacylation of an RNA minihelix is a potential progenitor to modern tRNA-based protein synthesis using l-amino acids. This article describes the molecular basis for this chiral selection. The extended double helical form of an RNA minihelix with a CCA triplet (acceptor
[...] Read more.
The chiral-selective aminoacylation of an RNA minihelix is a potential progenitor to modern tRNA-based protein synthesis using l-amino acids. This article describes the molecular basis for this chiral selection. The extended double helical form of an RNA minihelix with a CCA triplet (acceptor of an amino acid), an aminoacyl phosphate donor nucleotide (mimic of aminoacyl-AMP), and a bridging nucleotide facilitates chiral-selective aminoacylation. Energetically, the reaction is characterized by a downhill reaction wherein an amino acid migrates from a high-energy acyl phosphate linkage to a lower-energy carboxyl ester linkage. The reaction occurs under the restriction that the nucleophilic attack of O, from 3′-OH in the terminal CCA, to C, from C=O in the acyl phosphate linkage, must occur at a Bürgi-Dunitz angle, which is defined as the O–C=O angle of approximately 105°. The extended double helical form results in a steric hindrance at the side chain of the amino acid leading to chiral preference combined with cation coordinations in the amino acid and the phosphate oxygen. Such a system could have developed into the protein biosynthetic system with an exclusively chiral component (l-amino acids) via (proto) ribosomes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Origin of Life 2011)
Open AccessReview The Composition and Organization of Cytoplasm in Prebiotic Cells
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2011, 12(3), 1650-1659; doi:10.3390/ijms12031650
Received: 26 January 2011 / Revised: 15 February 2011 / Accepted: 23 February 2011 / Published: 3 March 2011
Cited by 9 | PDF Full-text (191 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This article discusses the hypothesized composition and organization of cytoplasm in prebiotic cells from a theoretical perspective and also based upon what is currently known about bacterial cytoplasm. It is unknown if the first prebiotic, microscopic scale, cytoplasm was initially contained within a
[...] Read more.
This article discusses the hypothesized composition and organization of cytoplasm in prebiotic cells from a theoretical perspective and also based upon what is currently known about bacterial cytoplasm. It is unknown if the first prebiotic, microscopic scale, cytoplasm was initially contained within a primitive, continuous, semipermeable membrane, or was an uncontained gel substance, that later became enclosed by a continuous membrane. Another possibility is that the first cytoplasm in prebiotic cells and a primitive membrane organized at the same time, permitting a rapid transition to the first cell(s) capable of growth and division, thus assisting with the emergence of life on Earth less than a billion years after the formation of the Earth. It is hypothesized that the organization and composition of cytoplasm progressed initially from an unstructured, microscopic hydrogel to a more complex cytoplasm, that may have been in the volume magnitude of about 0.1–0.2 µm3 (possibly less if a nanocell) prior to the first cell division. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Origin of Life 2011)

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