Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Origin of Life?

courtesy of dailygalaxy.com

There's a fascinating article in Nature (here's the article, courtesy of the University of Texas) on how life started on Earth, and the evidence in rRNA that suggests it came from deep hydrothermal vents in the ocean. The article here focuses on the similarities between the metabolism of autotrophs and the geochemical reactions that take place in the vents. The reactive gases, dissolved elements, the pH, and thermal gradients at the vents are suitable for the development of life. Given that the same type of environment was very common in early Earth's oceans, it is likely that the microbes that thrive at the vents could be closely related to the first microbes on Earth, despite oxic conditions and carbonate chimneys in modern vents. The vents in early Earth were anoxic, and were FeS-rich in comparison. Anaerobic methane-oxidizing microbes' biological pathways were compared to the geochemical process of serpentinization, where water and bicarbonate reduce Fe2+ in hydrothermially altered mantle rock to produce serpentine and hydrogen gas. Hydrogen gas is an electron source that can, in turn, reduce carbon dioxide to methane in a process similar to the biochemical pathways of local methane-oxidizing microbes. This comparison is important because if life did arise from systems like LCHF, serpentinization could have been an evolutionry precursor to the first biochemical pathways. To support the possibility of life originating at LCHF-like systems, the authors mentioned that the pH and thermal gradients at the LCHFs would allow high concentration of biological precursors to form, and that they could be used to explain the origins of chemiosmotic coupling in modern autotrophs.

In contrast to the anoxic oceans of the Hadean era, today's oceans have plenty of oxygen. Thus the chemical of composition of the LCHFs and the vents would be different from the oceans of early Earth. The presence of oxygen means very different microbes would exist then, compared to now. How do aerobic microbes in the hydrothermal vents, figure in finding the origins of life? Are they of any special interest, or should further research focus on methanogens only? How did lipid bilayers, a sure prerequisite for life, come about? Most of the compounds discussed in the article are very simple and small.

42 scientific replies:

GMSoccerPicks said...

Wow, that was a bit complex, yet entertaining and interesting read. As you may have guessed, i would ve never thought that life was originated that way.

Rapidfirewordburst said...

Interesting stuff. I just wish I understood all of it, haha.

epictacoman456 said...

Woah, that's a lot of science!

Gambling Degenerate said...

wow ive never heard that theory before. that would be amazing if thats how life started...makes sense though

b said...

Awesome article :D

GMSoccerPicks said...

congrats on the .com domain!

GENETICS said...

@GMSoccerPicks: Haha. Thank you! I was thinking of doing a shorter URL, and I will, in the future. I am just testing things out a bit. Hopefully the transition is smooth! ^^

Fallow said...

Fascinating O: Following for further posts :)

T Papar said...

interesting theory and well written article!

Ferko Mrkvička said...

great read man, looking forward for more like these

SoreLosersGaming said...

A lot of the RNA world theories are really gathering pace when it comes to the big "origin of life" question. Personally, I think a lot of it makes sense, especially some of the work done on vesicle formation -> cells and the like.

Internet Catch Of The Day said...

Fascinating article! Maybe a very long term experiment should be set up?

paulz said...

Very interesting fascinating stuff +follow for future interest :)

Bigshanks BSc said...

Woah brings me back to the biology seminars and lectures! its fascinating stuff. In response to your question about laxitives, they are dangerous! Essentially they can make you skinnier by pushing the food through before it can be absorbed etc. Very unhealthy and can cause a lot of permanent bowl, intestinal and stomach damage!

Mike said...

I don't know too many of the nuances that biogenesis would have to offer but I do know that I really loved reading this. Very informative and you really have a grasp on the technical language involved.

Behemoth said...

I thought god created the world? :/

convictus said...

I for one look forward to our new undersea vent overlords.

#19 said...

Yeah this is good stuff but it's a little bit above my head :(

Natural One said...

Spontaneous generation

Jandro said...

I've always wondered about how any of this was possible to have happened and about the origin of life. stuff like this always interests me.

joseph said...

Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

pv said...

wow htis is interesting man, great post

Geojour said...

When I dive, I am AMAZED by the life down there. I'm also amazed at how myopic even scientists are when they define "life".

Thanks for helping spread the info.

Gryt said...

I've actually heard about this before and the speculation that life on Earth started in the vents. I'd like to believe life started off Earth and came to Earth, but theres no evidence for that (I think) yet.

wolvz said...

this subject is very complex, but this article made me understand some things i didn't know before! very interesting... i really like your blog.

Ferko Mrkvička said...

I believe there is life on Mars! in the very early stages as on earth bilions of years ago

Bulletproof Zombie said...

It pleases me that I understood 90% of this, being out of college several years with a 30 ACT score at the peak of my brilliance.

Fascinating post, as always.

Hento the loony repairman :D said...

Ive always had my belief in

underwater + lava + heat + pressure + minerals + elements = life

im sure theres other elemnt based lifeforms out there and not just carbon!

lunatic said...

amazing post mate thanks for sharing

TheUndeclaredWinner said...

Informative post detailing evolution, interesting read. Going through archives.

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tracy scanlon said...

Fascinating, but I wish I knew more thanks

tracy scanlon said...

How do Anaerobic microbes in the hydrothermal vents make aerobic microbes?

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