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Journal Articles Life Year : 2024

The Winding Road from Origin to Emergence (of Life)

Le chemin sinueux de l'origine à l'émergence (de la vie)


Humanity’s strive to understand why and how life appeared on planet Earth dates back to prehistoric times. At the beginning of the 19th century, empirical biology started to tackle this question yielding both Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and the paradigm that the crucial trigger putting life on its tracks was the appearance of organic molecules. In parallel to these developments in the biological sciences, physics and physical chemistry saw the fundamental laws of thermodynamics being unraveled. Towards the end of the 19th century and during the first half of the 20th century, the tensions between thermodynamics and the “organic-molecules-paradigm” became increasingly difficult to ignore, culminating in Erwin Schrödinger’s 1944 formulation of a thermodynamics-compliant vision of life and, consequently, the prerequisites for its appearance. We will first review the major milestones over the last 200 years in the biological and the physical sciences, relevant to making sense of life and its origins and then discuss the more recent reappraisal of the relative importance of metal ions vs. organic molecules in performing the essential processes of a living cell. Based on this reassessment and the modern understanding of biological free energy conversion (aka bioenergetics), we consider that scenarios wherein life emerges from an abiotic chemiosmotic process are both thermodynamics-compliant and the most parsimonious proposed so far.
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hal-04573011 , version 1 (13-05-2024)



Wolfgang Nitschke, Orion Farr, Nil Gaudu, Chloé Truong, François Guyot, et al.. The Winding Road from Origin to Emergence (of Life). Life, 2024, 14 (5), pp.607. ⟨10.3390/life14050607⟩. ⟨hal-04573011⟩
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