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Open AccessArticle

Chemical Transformations in Proto-Cytoplasmic Media. Phosphorus Coupling in the Silica Hydrogel Phase

School of Chemistry, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
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Received: 7 August 2017 / Revised: 12 October 2017 / Accepted: 27 October 2017 / Published: 19 November 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phosphorus (P) and the Origins of Life)
It has been proposed that prebiotic chemical studies on the emergence of primitive life would be most relevant when performed in a hydrogel, rather than an aqueous, environment. In this paper we describe the ambient temperature coupling of phosphorus oxyacids [Pi] mediated by Fe(II) under aerobic conditions within a silica hydrogel (SHG) environment. We have chosen to examine SHGs as they have considerable geological precedence as key phases in silicification en route to rock formation. Following a description of the preparation and characterization studies on our SHG formulations, coupling experiments between Pi species are described across multiple permutations of (i) Pi compound; (ii) gel formulation; (iii) metal salt additive; and (iv) pH-modifying agent. The results suggest that successful Pi coupling, indicated by observation of pyrophosphate [PPi(V)] via 31P-NMR spectroscopy, takes place when the following components are present: (i) a mixture of mixture of Pi(III) and Pi(V) or pure PPi(III-V); (ii) Fe(II); (iii) acetic or formic acid (not hydrochloric acid); (iv) aerobic conditions or the presence of H2O2 as an oxidant; and (v) the presence of a gel system. On the basis of these, and aqueous control reactions, we suggest mechanistic possibilities. View Full-Text
Keywords: silica; hydrogel; phosphorus; coupling; prebiotic silica; hydrogel; phosphorus; coupling; prebiotic
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Gorrell, I.B.; Henderson, T.W.; Albdeery, K.; Savage, P.M.; Kee, T.P. Chemical Transformations in Proto-Cytoplasmic Media. Phosphorus Coupling in the Silica Hydrogel Phase. Life 2017, 7, 45.

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