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Ancient Living Organisms Escaping from, or Imprisoned in, the Vents?

School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
Received: 25 August 2017 / Revised: 11 September 2017 / Accepted: 11 September 2017 / Published: 15 September 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hydrothermal Vents or Hydrothermal Fields: Challenging Paradigms)
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We have recently criticised the natural pH gradient hypothesis which purports to explain how the difference in pH between fluid issuing from ancient alkali vents and the more acidic Hadean ocean could have driven molecular machines that catalyse reactions that are useful in prebiotic and autotrophic chemistry. In this article, we temporarily suspend our earlier criticism while we consider difficulties for primitive organisms to have managed their energy supply and to have left the vents and become free-living. We point out that it may have been impossible for organisms to have acquired membrane-located proton (or sodium ion) pumps to replace the natural pH gradient, and independently to have driven essential molecular machines such as the ATP synthase. The volumes of the ocean and of the vent fluids were too large for a membrane-located pump to have generated a significant ion concentration gradient. Our arguments apply to three of the four concurrent models employed by the proponents of the natural pH gradient hypothesis. A fourth model is exempt from these arguments but has other intrinsic difficulties that we briefly consider. We conclude that ancient organisms utilising a natural pH gradient would have been imprisoned in the vents, unable to escape and become free-living. View Full-Text
Keywords: natural pH gradient; hydrothermal vents; chemiosmotic theory; origin of life natural pH gradient; hydrothermal vents; chemiosmotic theory; origin of life

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Jackson, J.B. Ancient Living Organisms Escaping from, or Imprisoned in, the Vents? Life 2017, 7, 36.

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