chemical evolution


Summary: Chemical and physical transformation of the biogenic elements from their nucleosynthesis in stars to their incorporation and subsequent modification in planetary bodies and terrestrial biochemistry. It includes the mechanism of incorporation of biogenic elements into complex molecules and molecular systems, leading up to the origin of life.

Top Publications

  1. Wrenn S, Harbury P. Chemical evolution as a tool for molecular discovery. Annu Rev Biochem. 2007;76:331-49 pubmed
    ..We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches, review the successes, and consider the future of chemical evolution as a tool.
  2. Mulkidjanian A, Galperin M. Physico-chemical and evolutionary constraints for the formation and selection of first biopolymers: towards the consensus paradigm of the abiogenic origin of life. Chem Biodivers. 2007;4:2003-15 pubmed
    ..The key feature of the scenario is the participation of the UV irradiation both as driving and selecting forces during the earlier stages of evolution. ..
  3. Ricardo A, Carrigan M, Olcott A, Benner S. Borate minerals stabilize ribose. Science. 2004;303:196 pubmed
  4. Pross A. Causation and the origin of life. Metabolism or replication first?. Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2004;34:307-21 pubmed
    ..The analysis reaffirms our conviction that life is an extreme expression of kinetic control, and that the emergence of metabolic pathways can be understood by considering life as a manifestation of 'replicative chemistry'. ..
  5. Orgel L. Geothermal synthesis and metabolism. Astrobiology. 2006;6:297-8 pubmed
  6. Szathmary E. The origin of replicators and reproducers. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006;361:1761-76 pubmed
    ..Prebiotic and early evolution cannot be understood without the models of dynamics. ..
  7. Rode B, Fitz D, Jakschitz T. The first steps of chemical evolution towards the origin of life. Chem Biodivers. 2007;4:2674-702 pubmed
  8. Zubay G, Mui T. Prebiotic synthesis of nucleotides. Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2001;31:87-102 pubmed
    ..were no enzymes and no templates to facilitate the synthesis of the first nucleotides so another form of chemical evolution must have been involved...
  9. Mulkidjanian A. On the origin of life in the zinc world: 1. Photosynthesizing, porous edifices built of hydrothermally precipitated zinc sulfide as cradles of life on Earth. Biol Direct. 2009;4:26 pubmed publisher
    ..Their number, however, can be dramatically reduced by the simultaneous consideration of various bioenergetic, physical, and geological constraints...

More Information


  1. Melendez Hevia E, Montero Gómez N, Montero F. From prebiotic chemistry to cellular metabolism--the chemical evolution of metabolism before Darwinian natural selection. J Theor Biol. 2008;252:505-19 pubmed
    ..In the present work we propose that these protocells could be built by chemical evolution, starting from the prebiotic primordial soup, by means of chemical selection...
  2. Bada J, Fegley B, Miller S, Lazcano A, Cleaves H, Hazen R, et al. Debating evidence for the origin of life on Earth. Science. 2007;315:937-9; author reply 937-9 pubmed
  3. Jortner J. Conditions for the emergence of life on the early Earth: summary and reflections. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006;361:1877-91 pubmed
  4. Mulkidjanian A, Galperin M. On the origin of life in the zinc world. 2. Validation of the hypothesis on the photosynthesizing zinc sulfide edifices as cradles of life on Earth. Biol Direct. 2009;4:27 pubmed publisher
    ..The hypothesis suggests that life emerged within compartmentalized, photosynthesizing ZnS formations of hydrothermal origin (the Zn world), assembled in sub-aerial settings on the surface of the primeval Earth...
  5. Maurer S, Deamer D, Boncella J, Monnard P. Chemical evolution of amphiphiles: glycerol monoacyl derivatives stabilize plausible prebiotic membranes. Astrobiology. 2009;9:979-87 pubmed publisher
    ..We conclude that GMAs can significantly increase the stability of mixed amphiphile membranes, but further studies are required to establish model membranes that are stable at elevated temperatures. ..
  6. Orgel L. The implausibility of metabolic cycles on the prebiotic Earth. PLoS Biol. 2008;6:e18 pubmed publisher
  7. Morowitz H, Kostelnik J, Yang J, Cody G. The origin of intermediary metabolism. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000;97:7704-8 pubmed
    ..The model indicates that the metabolism shown in the universal chart of pathways may be central to the origin of life, is emergent from organic chemistry, and may be unique. ..
  8. Gallori E, Biondi E, Branciamore S. Looking for the primordial genetic honeycomb. Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2006;36:493-9 pubmed
    ..In the present work, we discuss results obtained in different fields that strengthen the hypothesis of a clay-surface-mediated origin of genetic material...
  9. Cairns Smith A. Chemistry and the missing era of evolution. Chemistry. 2008;14:3830-9 pubmed publisher
    ..A pre-RNA era of natural selection is implied. I suggest that originally this was based on inorganic materials that came to replicate permutations with specific (e.g. catalytic) effects. ..
  10. Schwartz A. Phosphorus in prebiotic chemistry. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006;361:1743-9; discussion 1749 pubmed
    ..In addition, recent results would seem to suggest an additional, extraterrestrial source of reactive phosphorus. It appears that the 'phosphorus problem' is no longer the stumbling block which it was once thought to be. ..
  11. Bada J, Lazcano A. Origin of life. Some like it hot, but not the first biomolecules. Science. 2002;296:1982-3 pubmed
  12. Russell M, Hall A. The emergence of life from iron monosulphide bubbles at a submarine hydrothermal redox and pH front. J Geol Soc London. 1997;154:377-402 pubmed
    ..Information systems to govern replication could have developed penecontemporaneously in this same milieu. But iron, sulphur and phosphate, inorganic components of earliest life, continued to be involved in metabolism. ..
  13. Ferris J. Montmorillonite-catalysed formation of RNA oligomers: the possible role of catalysis in the origins of life. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006;361:1777-86; discussion 1786 pubmed
    ..An introduction to the origin of life is given with an emphasis on reaction conditions based on the recent data obtained from zircons 4.0-4.5Ga...
  14. Garzon L, Garzón M. Radioactivity as a significant energy source in prebiotic synthesis. Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2001;31:3-13 pubmed the continental crust (due mainly to the isotopes 238U, 235U, 232Th and 40K), as a energy source for chemical evolution in the early Archean (between 3.5 and approximately 4 Ga bp), is reviewed...
  15. Saladino R, Crestini C, Costanzo G, Negri R, Di Mauro E. A possible prebiotic synthesis of purine, adenine, cytosine, and 4(3H)-pyrimidinone from formamide: implications for the origin of life. Bioorg Med Chem. 2001;9:1249-53 pubmed
    The synthesis of prebiotic molecules is a major problem in chemical evolution as well as in any origin-of-life theory...
  16. Biondi E, Branciamore S, Maurel M, Gallori E. Montmorillonite protection of an UV-irradiated hairpin ribozyme: evolution of the RNA world in a mineral environment. BMC Evol Biol. 2007;7 Suppl 2:S2 pubmed
  17. Childers W, Ni R, Mehta A, Lynn D. Peptide membranes in chemical evolution. Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2009;13:652-9 pubmed publisher
    ..We argue that such scaffolds can achieve the required molecular order and catalytic agility for the emergence of chemical evolution.
  18. Wächtershäuser G. Origin of life. Life as we don't know it. Science. 2000;289:1307-8 pubmed
    ..In his Perspective, Wächtershäuser discusses the report by Cody et al., which provides key support for the latter proposal. ..
  19. Branciamore S, Gallori E, Szathmary E, Czárán T. The origin of life: chemical evolution of a metabolic system in a mineral honeycomb?. J Mol Evol. 2009;69:458-69 pubmed publisher
    ..Complementing our previous models of chemical evolution on mineral surfaces, in which selection was the consequence of the limited mobility of macromolecules ..
  20. Ferris J. Montmorillonite catalysis of 30-50 mer oligonucleotides: laboratory demonstration of potential steps in the origin of the RNA world. Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2002;32:311-32 pubmed
    ..The potential significance of the mineral catalyzed formation of 50 mer oligonucleotides to the origin of life based on RNA (the RNA world scenario) is discussed. ..
  21. Nisbet E, Sleep N. The habitat and nature of early life. Nature. 2001;409:1083-91 pubmed
    ..By about 3,500 million years ago, most of the principal biochemical pathways that sustain the modern biosphere had evolved, and were global in scope. ..
  22. Fernando C, Rowe J. Natural selection in chemical evolution. J Theor Biol. 2007;247:152-67 pubmed
    We propose that chemical evolution can take place by natural selection if a geophysical process is capable of heterotrophic formation of liposomes that grow at some base rate, divide by external agitation, and are subject to stochastic ..
  23. Biondi E, Branciamore S, Fusi L, Gago S, Gallori E. Catalytic activity of hammerhead ribozymes in a clay mineral environment: implications for the RNA world. Gene. 2007;389:10-8 pubmed
  24. Wächtershäuser G. From volcanic origins of chemoautotrophic life to Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006;361:1787-806; discussion 1806-8 pubmed
  25. Rosen G. Is there a field-theoretic explanation for precursor biopolymers?. Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2002;32:299-302 pubmed
  26. Colín García M, Negrón Mendoza A, Ramos Bernal S. Organics produced by irradiation of frozen and liquid HCN solutions: implications for chemical evolution studies. Astrobiology. 2009;9:279-88 pubmed publisher
    ..This work strongly supports the presumption that, as a parent molecule, HCN played a central essential role in the process of chemical evolution on early Earth, comets, and other extraterrestrial environments.
  27. Horn A, Møllendal H, Guillemin J. A quantum chemical study of the generation of a potential prebiotic compound, cyanoacetaldehyde, and related sulfur containing species. J Phys Chem A. 2008;112:11009-16 pubmed publisher
    ..Moreover, the corresponding addition reactions of hydrogen sulfide (H 2S) to HCCCN, as well as to HCCCNH (+), have been explored with similar results. ..
  28. Weber A. Sugar-driven prebiotic synthesis of ammonia from nitrite. Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2010;40:245-52 pubmed publisher
  29. Mercer Smith J, Raudino A, Mauzerall D. A model for the origin of photosynthesis--III. The ultraviolet photochemistry of uroporphyrinogen. Photochem Photobiol. 1985;42:239-44 pubmed
    ..This research shows how the oxidation of uroporphyrinogen to uroporphyrin, the first biogenetic porphyrin, could have occurred anaerobically and abiotically on the primordial earth. ..
  30. Yamashita M. [Pros and cons for Martian life: scientific debate on ALH84001]. Biol Sci Space. 1997;11:22-8 pubmed
    ..Even there is no firm conclusion yet to convince the existence of life on Mars, intensive studies on the meteorite ALH84001 have invoked many valuable findings. ..
  31. Rasmussen S, Chen L, Deamer D, Krakauer D, Packard N, Stadler P, et al. Evolution. Transitions from nonliving to living matter. Science. 2004;303:963-5 pubmed
  32. Coltice N, Ricard Y. On the origin of noble gases in mantle plumes. Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2002;360:2633-48 pubmed
    ..A recycling model of the mantle, involving gravitational segregation of the oceanic crust at the bottom of the mantle, potentially satisfies trace-element as well as noble-gas constraints. ..
  33. Monnard P, Deamer D. Membrane self-assembly processes: steps toward the first cellular life. Anat Rec. 2002;268:196-207 pubmed
    ..Their suspensions in aqueous media have therefore been used to investigate nutrient uptake across simple membranes and encapsulated catalyzed reactions, both of which would be essential processes in protocellular life forms. ..
  34. Levine J. The early atmosphere: a new picture. Sci Act. 1986;23:6-16 pubmed
    Over the last several years, many of the fundamental ideas concerning the composition and chemical evolution of the Earth's early atmosphere have changed...
  35. Parisi G, Echave J. The structurally constrained protein evolution model accounts for sequence patterns of the LbetaH superfamily. BMC Evol Biol. 2004;4:41 pubmed
    ..We performed a thorough assessment of the SCPE model on the LPXA family and extended it to all other members of known structure of the LbetaH superfamily. ..
  36. Arteaga O, Canillas A, Crusats J, El Hachemi Z, Jellison G, Llorca J, et al. Chiral biases in solids by effect of shear gradients: a speculation on the deterministic origin of biological homochirality. Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2010;40:27-40 pubmed publisher
  37. Segura A, Navarro Gonzalez R. Experimental simulation of early Martian volcanic lightning. Adv Space Res. 2001;27:201-6 pubmed
    ..The main products identified were hydrocarbons and an uncharacterized yellow film deposit. Preliminary results indicate the presence of hydrogen cyanide among the resultant compounds. ..
  38. Chyba C, McDonald G. The origin of life in the solar system: current issues. Annu Rev Earth Planet Sci. 1995;23:215-49 pubmed
    ..Topics include definitions of life; exobiological environments in the solar system, including the planets and their satellites, comets, and asteroids; energy sources for prebiotic chemistry, and the concept of the RNA world. ..
  39. Chandrasekhar S. Molecular homochirality and the parity-violating energy difference. A critique with new proposals. Chirality. 2008;20:84-95 pubmed
    ..The WNC may also be involved in the anomalous scattering of X-rays, which possibly arises from their circular polarization: the current theory would need to be revised accordingly. ..
  40. Trevors J, Pollack G. Hypothesis: the origin of life in a hydrogel environment. Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2005;89:1-8 pubmed
    ..Thus, the gel-like environment may have conferred distinct advantages for the assembly of the first cell(s). ..
  41. Nemoto A, Horie M, Imai E, Honda H, Hatori K, Matsuno K. Enantiomeric excess of amino acids in hydrothermal environments. Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2005;35:167-74 pubmed
    ..Hydrothermal environments in the primitive ocean could have maintained the capacity of selectively retaining enantiomeric excess in favor of L-amino acids once the concentration of amino acids could reach a sufficiently high level. ..
  42. Faglioni F, Passalacqua A, Lazzeretti P. Parity violation energy of biomolecules--I: polypeptides. Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2005;35:461-75 pubmed
  43. Morita M, Harada Y, Iseki K, Izumi S, Hiraya A. Mass spectroscopic approach to amino acids formation processes by UV irradiation to simple organic molecules in aqueous solution. Anal Sci. 2005;21:1085-90 pubmed
    ..By identifying the amino acid precursor, which has a chiral carbon atom, a new possibility is suggested for asymmetric photosynthesis of amino acid from achiral organic molecules. ..
  44. Lemke K, Rosenbauer R, Bird D. Peptide synthesis in early Earth hydrothermal systems. Astrobiology. 2009;9:141-6 pubmed publisher
    ..It is anticipated that the abundant hydrothermal systems on early Earth could have provided a substantial source of biomolecules required for the origin of life. ..
  45. McKay C, Borucki W. Organic synthesis in experimental impact shocks. Science. 1997;276:390-2 pubmed
    ..No organic molecules were produced in a carbon dioxide-rich mixture, which is at odds with thermodynamic equilibrium approaches to shock chemistry and has implications for the modeling of shock-produced organic molecules on early Earth. ..
  46. Hermansen T, Ventegodt S, Merrick J. Human development x: Explanation of macroevolution--top-down evolution materializes consciousness. The origin of metamorphosis. ScientificWorldJournal. 2006;6:1656-66 pubmed
    ..This is the key to evolutionary shift through the consciousness, and we propose to call this process "adult human metamorphosis". ..
  47. Talini G, Gallori E, Maurel M. Natural and unnatural ribozymes: back to the primordial RNA world. Res Microbiol. 2009;160:457-65 pubmed publisher
  48. Huber C, Wächtershäuser G. alpha-Hydroxy and alpha-amino acids under possible Hadean, volcanic origin-of-life conditions. Science. 2006;314:630-2 pubmed
    ..Calcium or magnesium hydroxide was added as a pH buffer. The results narrow the gap between biochemistry and volcanic geochemistry and open a new gateway for the exploration of a volcanic, hydrothermal origin of life. ..
  49. Plankensteiner K, Reiner H, Rode B. Amino acids on the rampant primordial Earth: electric discharges and the hot salty ocean. Mol Divers. 2006;10:3-7 pubmed
    For more than 50 years scientists who study prebiotic chemistry have been dealing with chemical evolution as it could have possibly taken place on the primordial Earth...
  50. Kerr R. Earth science. A better atmosphere for life. Science. 2005;308:1732 pubmed
  51. Allègre C. The evolution of mantle mixing. Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2002;360:2411-31 pubmed
    ..1.5 x 10(9) yr. ..
  52. Brodholt J, Oganov A, Price G. Computational mineral physics and the physical properties of perovskite. Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2002;360:2507-20 pubmed
    ..When corrected to similar concentrations of Al(3+), the calculated compressibilities of the oxygen-vacancy-rich perovskites are in agreement with experimental results. ..
  53. Rees D, Howard J. The interface between the biological and inorganic worlds: iron-sulfur metalloclusters. Science. 2003;300:929-31 pubmed