A suite of nickel, cobalt, iron, copper, and zinc containing sulfides are assayed for the promotion of a model carbon fixation reaction with relevance to local reducing environments of the early Earth. The assay tests the promotion of hydrocarboxylation (the Koch reaction) wherein a carboxylic acid is synthesized via carbonyl insertion at a metal-sulfide-bound alkyl group. The experimental conditions Eire chosen for optimal assay, i.e., high reactant concentrations and pressures (200 MPa) to enhance chemisorption, and high temperature (250degreesC) to enhance reaction kinetics. All of the metal sulfides studied, with the exception CuS, promote hydrocarboxylation. Two other significant reactions involve the catalytic reduction of CO to form a surface-bound methyl group, detected after nucleophilic attack by nonane thiol to form methyl nonyl sulfide, and the formation of dinonyl sulfide via a similar reaction. Estimation of the catalytic turnover frequencies for each of the metal sulfides with respect to each of the primary reactions reveals that NiS, Ni3S2, and CoS per-form comparably to commonly employed industrial catalysts. A positive correlation between the yield of primary product to NiS and Ni3S2 surface areas provides strong evidence that the reactions are surface catalytic in these cases. The sulfides FeS and Fe(1-x)S are unique in that they exhibit evidence of extensive dissolution, thus, complicating interpretation regarding heterogeneous vs. homogeneous catalysis. With the exception of CuS, each of the metal sulfides promotes reactions that mimic key intermediate steps manifest in the mechanistic details of an important autotrophic enzyme, acetyl-CoA synthase. The relatively high temperatures chosen for assaying purposes, however, are incompatible with the accumulation of thioesters. The results of this study support the hypothesis that transition metal sulfides may have provided useful catalytic functionality for geochemical carbon fixation in a prebiotic world (at least intially) devoid of peptide-based enzymes. Copyright (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd.