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The metallome: New origin of life hopeful

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From Nautilus: A collection of metal atoms called the “metallome” helped drive evolution.

The metallome is even changing how we think about life on other planets. The energy required to drive cyclic chemical reactions that are self-replicating—what we might call “life”—could come from reactions of the metallic elements. Our search for extraterrestrial life shouldn’t be restricted to a search for remnants of complex organic molecules. There’s another clear target, with a rather appropriately sci-fi ring to it: Heavy metals in space.More.

If only life didn’t need to be alive, it would all be so much simpler.

See also: Maybe if we throw enough models at the origin of life… some of them will stick?

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7 Replies to “The metallome: New origin of life hopeful

  1. 1
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    They used to say to new Army recruits, “If it moves, salute it. If it doesn’t move, paint it!”

    Evolution recruits are told much the same, except that now maybe they use metallic paint.

  2. 2
    Elshamah says:

    Biosynthesis of Iron-sulfur clusters, basic building blocks for life 1


    Sulfur is an essential element, being a constituent of many proteins and cofactors. Iron-sulfur (FeS) centers are essential protein cofactors in all forms of life. Various biosynthetic pathways were found to be tightly interconnected through complex crosstalk mechanisms that crucially depend on the bio-availability of the metal ions iron, molybdenum, tungsten, nickel, copper, and zinc. Proteins requiring Fe/S clusters in their active site have been localized in mitochondria, cytosol and nucleus where they are involved in rather diverse functions such as the TCA cycle, amino acid biosynthesis, bacterial and mitochondrial respiration, co-factor biosynthesis, ribosome assembly, regulation of protein translation, DNA replication and DNA repair. Hence the process of iron-sulphur biosynthesis is essential to almost all forms of life. The prevalence of these proteins on the metabolic pathways of most organisms leads some scientists to theorize that iron–sulfur compounds had a significant role in the origin of life in the iron–sulfur world theory. The iron–sulfur world hypothesis is a set of proposals for the origin of life and the early evolution of life advanced in a series of articles between 1988 and 1992 by Günter Wächtershäuser. FeS cluster assembly is a complex process involving the mobilisation of Fe and S atoms from storage sources, their assembly into [Fe-S] form, their transport to specific cellular locations, and their transfer to recipient apoproteins. These ancient and essential components of the cell machinery depend on ferrous iron and sulfur, elements that are readily available in a reducing atmosphere, but are scarce in an oxygen-rich atmosphere; that reactive oxygen species generated by aerobic respiration are damaging to FeS clusters; that free iron and sulfide released by FeS clusters are toxic to cells; that therefore complex mechanisms are needed to coordinate the synthesis of these simple cofactors, and that these pathways have to be compartmentalized in organelles of prokaryotic origin. That adds further problems, if the prebiotic atmosphere was oxygen rich, and not reducing, as evidences suggests. Fe-S clusters are partners in the origin of life that predate cells, acetyl-CoA metabolism, DNA, and the RNA world.13 Nar1 is a essential component of a cytosolic Fe/S protein assembly machinery. Required for maturation of extramitochondrial Fe/S proteins. 12 Thus, Nar1 is both a target and a component of the cellular Fe/S protein biogenesis machinery creating an interesting “chicken and egg” situation for its maturation process Conserved Iron–Sulfur (Fe–S) clusters are found in a growing family of metalloproteins that are implicated in prokaryotic and eukaryotic DNA replication and repair. Therefore, they had to exist prior life began, since DNA replication enzymes and proteins depends on them. They require however also complex proteins and enzymes to be synthesized. Thats a classical chicken/egg problem.

  3. 3
    Indiana Effigy says:

    I would just like to point out that the title of this OP is misleading. The article being referenced has nothing to do with origin of life.

  4. 4
    forexhr says:

    All these researches are nothing but a huge waste of time and money.

    Life is the ability to maintain and to replicate a set of interdependent molecular component parts forming a intricate whole(organism), which is impossible to form through physicochemical transformations because physicochemical transformations are heading towards equilibrium or towards a state of minimum potential energy and not towards a state in which complex molecular component parts will maintain and replicate themselves. Magic of time doesn’t work also. The greater the time elapsed the greater should be the approach to equilibrium.

    This is science that can be observed in a laboratory every day. Everything else is pseudoscience, just so stories, wishful thinking and hyped-up media reports invented to create an illusion of rationality and scientificity in materialistic concept of reality.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Bacterial Heavy Metal Detoxification and Resistance Systems:
    Excerpt: Bacterial plasmids contain genetic determinants for resistance systems for Hg2+ (and organomercurials), Cd2+, AsO2, AsO43-, CrO4 2-, TeO3 2-, Cu2+, Ag+, Co2+, Pb2+, and other metals of environmental concern.,, Recombinant DNA analysis has been applied to mercury, cadmium, zinc, cobalt, arsenic, chromate, tellurium and copper resistance systems.

    Proteins prove their metal – July 2010
    Excerpt: ‘Nearly half of all enzymes require metals to function in catalysing biological reactions,’ Kylie Vincent, of Oxford University’s Department of Chemistry tells us. ‘Both the metal and the surrounding protein are crucial in tuning the reactivity of metal catalytic centres in enzymes.’ These ‘metal centres’ are hives of industry at a microscopic scale, with metals often held in a special protein environment where they may be assembled into intricate clusters inside proteins.

    Your Copper Pipes – November 2011
    Excerpt: In the fascinating field of ‘metals in biology’, by virtue of direct interactions with amino acid side-chains within polypeptide chains, metals play unique and critical roles in biology, promoting structures and chemistries that would not otherwise be available to proteins alone.,,, ATP7A is also important for the delivery of copper to nascent proteins in the Golgi apparatus. In mammals, ATP7A is expressed in many tissues except the liver,

    Unexpected allies help bacteria clean uranium from groundwater – March 8, 2013
    Excerpt: The researchers discovered that bacteria don’t necessarily go straight for the uranium, as was often thought to be the case. The bacteria make their own, even tinier allies – nanoparticles of a common mineral called iron sulfide. Then, working together, the bacteria and the iron sulfide grab molecules of a highly soluble form of uranium known as U(VI), or hexavalent uranium, and transform them into U(IV), a less-soluble form that’s much less likely to spread through the water table. According to Barger, this newly discovered partnership may be the basis of a global geochemical process that forms deposits of uranium ore.,,
    Discovering that bacteria work together with minerals to transform uranium was a surprise, said Bargar.,,,
    But as a scientist, he appreciates the glimpse he’s been given into “Nature’s” abilities to multitask. “Originally we wanted to see what happened to uranium and how it could help bioremediation technology to be successful,” he said. “But scientifically the results are much deeper than that.” And since their original hypothesis focused on bacteria alone, it’s a little humbling, too.

    Uncovering bacterial role in platinum formation – March 21, 2016
    Excerpt: “Traditionally it was thought that these platinum group metals only formed under high pressure and temperature systems deep underground, and that when they were brought to the surface through weathering and uplift, they just sat there and nothing further happened to them,” says Dr Reith.
    “We’ve shown that that is far from the case. We’ve linked specialised bacterial communities, found in biofilms on the grains of platinum group minerals at three separate locations around the world, with the dispersion and re-concentration of these elements in surface environments.
    “We’ve shown that nuggets of platinum and related metals can be reformed at the surface through bacterial processes.”
    The study has investigated platinum group elements from Brazil, Colombia and the Australian state of Tasmania.
    Monash University Professor Joël Brugger says: “We needed to find fresh grains of platinum group minerals and extract them from soils and sediments in a manner that preserves fragile biofilms and tell-tale DNA. These grains are incredibly rare, and the chase took us all over the world, from Tasmania to Brazil.”
    The researchers found live bacterial biofilms on mineral grains from all three sites using scanning electron microscopy. They had been suggested previously but never before shown to exist. They also showed that the mineral grains found at the Brazil site were bio-organic in origin, further supporting the role of the bacteria in the secondary formation of platinum grains.
    “We’ve shown the biofilms occur across a range of platinum-group-metal grains and in different locations,” says Dr Reith. “And we’ve shown, that at the Brazil site at least, the entire process of formation of platinum and palladium was mediated by microbes.”
    The work builds on more than 10 years of research in gold, which has uncovered the role of micro-organisms in driving the Earth’s gold cycle.

    Researchers Discover Bacteria That Produces Pure Gold
    Excerpt: Cupriavidus metallidurans to turn gold chlroride—a toxic chemical liquid you can find in nature—into 99.9% pure gold.,,,
    In about a week, the bacteria does its job, processing all that junk into the precious metal—a process they believe happens regularly in nature.

    The Concentration of Metals for Humanity’s Benefit:
    Excerpt: They demonstrated that hydrothermal fluid flow could enrich the concentration of metals like zinc, lead, and copper by at least a factor of a thousand. They also showed that ore deposits formed by hydrothermal fluid flows at or above these concentration levels exist throughout Earth’s crust. The necessary just-right precipitation conditions needed to yield such high concentrations demand extraordinary fine-tuning. That such ore deposits are common in Earth’s crust strongly suggests supernatural design.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    The Creation of Minerals:
    Excerpt: Thanks to the way life was introduced on Earth, the early 250 mineral species have exploded to the present 4,300 known mineral species. And because of this abundance, humans possessed all the necessary mineral resources to easily launch and sustain global, high-technology civilization.

    Earth’s mineralogy unique in the cosmos – August 26, 2015
    New research predicts that Earth has more than 1,500 undiscovered minerals and that the exact mineral diversity of our planet is unique and could not be duplicated anywhere in the cosmos.
    Excerpt: 5,000 types existing today arose primarily from the rise of life. More than two-thirds of known minerals can be linked directly or indirectly to biological activity, according to Hazen.,,,
    The team predicted that 1,563 minerals exist on Earth today, but have yet to be discovered and described.,,
    Earth’s mineralogy is unique in the cosmos,” Hazen said.

    Microbial life can easily live without us; we, however, cannot survive without the global catalysis and environmental transformations it provides.
    – Paul G. Falkowski – Professor Geological Sciences – Rutgers

    Dr. Ross points out that the extremely long amount of time it took to prepare a suitable place for humans to exist in this universe, for the relatively short period of time that we can exist on this planet, is actually a point of evidence that argues strongly for Theism:

    Anthropic Principle: A Precise Plan for Humanity By Hugh Ross
    Excerpt: Brandon Carter, the British mathematician who coined the term “anthropic principle” (1974), noted the strange inequity of a universe that spends about 15 billion years “preparing” for the existence of a creature that has the potential to survive no more than 10 million years (optimistically).,, Carter and (later) astrophysicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler demonstrated that the inequality exists for virtually any conceivable intelligent species under any conceivable life-support conditions. Roughly 15 billion years represents a minimum preparation time for advanced life: 11 billion toward formation of a stable planetary system, one with the right chemical and physical conditions for primitive life, and four billion more years toward preparation of a planet within that system, one richly layered with the biodeposits necessary for civilized intelligent life. Even this long time and convergence of “just right” conditions reflect miraculous efficiency.
    Moreover the physical and biological conditions necessary to support an intelligent civilized species do not last indefinitely. They are subject to continuous change: the Sun continues to brighten, Earth’s rotation period lengthens, Earth’s plate tectonic activity declines, and Earth’s atmospheric composition varies. In just 10 million years or less, Earth will lose its ability to sustain human life. In fact, this estimate of the human habitability time window may be grossly optimistic. In all likelihood, a nearby supernova eruption, a climatic perturbation, a social or environmental upheaval, or the genetic accumulation of negative mutations will doom the species to extinction sometime sooner than twenty thousand years from now.

    As a Christian, I like the metaphor of ‘preparing for a wedding’ that Dr. Ross uses in the following video to illustrate the disparity that ‘The Anthropic Inequality’ presents in terms of the short amount of time that the ‘habitability window’ presents:

    Hugh Ross – The Anthropic Principle and The Anthropic Inequality – video

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Life and Earth History Reveal God’s Miraculous Preparation for Humans – Hugh Ross, PhD – video (2015)

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