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Open AccessArticle

Chemical Ecosystem Selection on Mineral Surfaces Reveals Long-Term Dynamics Consistent with the Spontaneous Emergence of Mutual Catalysis

1
Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53715, USA
2
Department of Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA
3
Geophysical Laboratory, The Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, DC 20015, USA
4
Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Ookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-8550, Japan
5
Blue Marble Space Institute for Science, Seattle, WA 97154, USA
6
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
7
Department of Botany, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 August 2019 / Revised: 14 October 2019 / Accepted: 16 October 2019 / Published: 23 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systems Protobiology: Origin of Life by Mutually Catalytic Networks)
How did chemicals first become organized into systems capable of self-propagation and adaptive evolution? One possibility is that the first evolvers were chemical ecosystems localized on mineral surfaces and composed of sets of molecular species that could catalyze each other’s formation. We used a bottom-up experimental framework, chemical ecosystem selection (CES), to evaluate this perspective and search for surface-associated and mutually catalytic chemical systems based on the changes in chemistry that they are expected to induce. Here, we report the results of preliminary CES experiments conducted using a synthetic “prebiotic soup” and pyrite grains, which yielded dynamical patterns that are suggestive of the emergence of mutual catalysis. While more research is needed to better understand the specific patterns observed here and determine whether they are reflective of self-propagation, these results illustrate the potential power of CES to test competing hypotheses for the emergence of protobiological chemical systems. View Full-Text
Keywords: autocatalysis; chemical ecosystem selection; mineral surfaces; mutual catalysis; prebiotic chemistry; origins of life autocatalysis; chemical ecosystem selection; mineral surfaces; mutual catalysis; prebiotic chemistry; origins of life
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Vincent, L.; Berg, M.; Krismer, M.; Saghafi, S.T.; Cosby, J.; Sankari, T.; Vetsigian, K.; Cleaves, H.J., II; Baum, D.A. Chemical Ecosystem Selection on Mineral Surfaces Reveals Long-Term Dynamics Consistent with the Spontaneous Emergence of Mutual Catalysis. Life 2019, 9, 80.

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