Could Life Originate between Mica Sheets?: Mechanochemical Biomolecular Synthesis and the Origins of Life

Abstract

The materials properties of mica have surprising similarities to those of living systems. The mica hypothesis is that life could have originated between mica sheets, which provide stable compartments, mechanical energy for bond formation, and the isolation needed for Darwinian evolution. Mechanical energy is produced by the movement of mica sheets, in response to forces such as ocean currents or temperature changes. The energy of a carbon-carbon bond at room temperature is comparable to a mechanical force of 6 nanoNewtons (nN) moving a distance of 100 picometers. Mica’s movements may have facilitated mechanochemistry, resulting in the synthesis of prebiotic organic molecules. Furthermore, mica’s movements may have facilitated the earliest cell divisions, at a later stage of life’s origins. Mica’s movements, pressing on lipid vesicles containing proto-cellular macromolecules, might have facilitated the blebbing off of ‘daughter’ protocells. This blebbing-off process has been observed recently in wall-less L-form bacteria and is proposed to be a remnant of the earliest cell divisions (Leaver, et al. Nature 457, 849 (2009).

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Greenwood2009CouldLO, title={Could Life Originate between Mica Sheets?: Mechanochemical Biomolecular Synthesis and the Origins of Life}, author={Helen Greenwood}, year={2009} }