Synthesis and Breakdown of the Universal Precursors to Biological Metabolism Promoted by Ferrous Iron

09 October 2018, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


How core biological metabolism initiated and why it uses the intermediates, reactions and pathways that it does remains unclear. Life builds its molecules from CO2 and breaks them down to CO2 again through the intermediacy of just five metabolites that act as the hubs of biochemistry. Here, we describe a purely chemical reaction network promoted by Fe2+ in which aqueous pyruvate and glyoxylate, two products of abiotic CO2 reduction, build up nine of the eleven TCA cycle intermediates, including all five universal metabolic precursors. The intermediates simultaneously break down to CO2 in a life-like regime resembling biological anabolism and catabolism. Introduction of hydroxylamine and Fe0 produces four biological amino acids. The network significantly overlaps the TCA/rTCA and glyoxylate cycles and may represent a prebiotic precursor to these core metabolic pathways.


Prebiotic Chemistry
origin of metabolism
Krebs cycle
TCA cycles
iron catalysis

Supplementary materials

Supplementary Information v3 ChemRxiv


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.