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FEBS Letters
Vol. 586, No: 5, 2012, Pages: 485 - 93

Hydrogen, metals, bifurcating electrons, and proton gradients: the early evolution of biological energy conservation

Martin WF

Institute of Molecular Evolution, University of Düsseldorf, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.


Life is a persistent, self-specified set of far from equilibrium chemical reactions. In modern microbes, core carbon and energy metabolism are what keep cells alive. In very early chemical evolution, the forerunners of carbon and energy metabolism were the processes of generating reduced carbon compounds from CO(2) and the mechanisms of harnessing energy as compounds capable of doing some chemical work. The process of serpentinization at alkaline hydrothermal vents holds promise as a model for the origin of early reducing power, because Fe(2+) in the Earth's crust reduces water to H(2) and inorganic carbon to methane. The overall geochemical process of serpentinization is similar to the biochemical process of methanogenesis, and methanogenesis is similar to acetogenesis in that both physiologies allow energy conservation from the reduction of CO(2) with electrons from H(2). Electron bifurcation is a newly recognized cytosolic process that anaerobes use generate low potential electrons, it plays an important role in some forms of methanogenesis and, via speculation, possibly in acetogenesis. Electron bifurcation likely figures into the early evolution of biological energy conservation.

Keywords:equilibrium chemical reactions,biochemical process of methanogenesis, and methanogenesis,biological energy conservation.



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