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Chemical Diversity of Metal Sulfide Minerals and Its Implications for the Origin of Life

1
Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2-12-1 Ookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-8550, Japan
2
Biofunctional Catalyst Research Team, RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako, Saitama 351-0198, Japan
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 11 September 2018 / Revised: 29 September 2018 / Accepted: 3 October 2018 / Published: 10 October 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Minerals and Origins of Life)
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Abstract

Prebiotic organic synthesis catalyzed by Earth-abundant metal sulfides is a key process for understanding the evolution of biochemistry from inorganic molecules, yet the catalytic functions of sulfides have remained poorly explored in the context of the origin of life. Past studies on prebiotic chemistry have mostly focused on a few types of metal sulfide catalysts, such as FeS or NiS, which form limited types of products with inferior activity and selectivity. To explore the potential of metal sulfides on catalyzing prebiotic chemical reactions, here, the chemical diversity (variations in chemical composition and phase structure) of 304 natural metal sulfide minerals in a mineralogy database was surveyed. Approaches to rationally predict the catalytic functions of metal sulfides are discussed based on advanced theories and analytical tools of electrocatalysis such as proton-coupled electron transfer, structural comparisons between enzymes and minerals, and in situ spectroscopy. To this end, we introduce a model of geoelectrochemistry driven prebiotic synthesis for chemical evolution, as it helps us to predict kinetics and selectivity of targeted prebiotic chemistry under “chemically messy conditions”. We expect that combining the data-mining of mineral databases with experimental methods, theories, and machine-learning approaches developed in the field of electrocatalysis will facilitate the prediction and verification of catalytic performance under a wide range of pH and Eh conditions, and will aid in the rational screening of mineral catalysts involved in the origin of life. View Full-Text
Keywords: origin of life; prebiotic chemistry; mineral catalysis; sulfide minerals; mineral diversity; density functional theory; electrocatalysis origin of life; prebiotic chemistry; mineral catalysis; sulfide minerals; mineral diversity; density functional theory; electrocatalysis
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Li, Y.; Kitadai, N.; Nakamura, R. Chemical Diversity of Metal Sulfide Minerals and Its Implications for the Origin of Life. Life 2018, 8, 46.

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