Biochemical evolution III: Polymerization on organophilic silica-rich surfaces, crystal-chemical modeling, formation of first cells, and geological clues Journal Article uri icon

DCO ID 11121/6398-6551-1154-6499-CC

in language

  • eng

year of publication

  • 1999


  • Catalysis at organophilic silica-rich surfaces of zeolites and feldspars might generate replicating biopolymers from simple chemicals supplied by meteorites, volcanic gases, and other geological sources. Crystal-chemical modeling yielded packings for amino acids neatly encapsulated in 10-ring channels of the molecular sieve silicalite-ZSM-5-(mutinaite). Calculation of binding and activation energies for catalytic assembly into polymers is progressing for a chemical composition with one catalytic Al-OH site per 25 neutral Si tetrahedral sites. Internal channel intersections and external terminations provide special stereochemical features suitable for complex organic species. Polymer migration along nano/micrometer channels of ancient weathered feldspars, plus exploitation of phosphorus and various transition metals in entrapped apatite and other microminerals, might have generated complexes of replicating catalytic biomolecules, leading to primitive cellular organisms. The first cell wall might have been an internal mineral surface, from which the cell developed a protective biological cap emerging into a nutrient-rich "soup." Ultimately, the biological cap might have expanded into a complete cell wall, allowing mobility and colonization of energy-rich challenging environments. Electron microscopy of honeycomb channels inside,weathered feldspars of the Shap granite (northwest England) has revealed modern bacteria, perhaps indicative of Archean ones. All known early rocks were metamorphosed too highly during geologic time to permit simple survival of large pore zeolites, honeycombed feldspar, and encapsulated species. Possible microscopic clues to the proposed mineral adsorbents/catalysts are discussed for planning of systematic study of black cherts from weakly metamorphosed Archaean sediments.


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