Serpentinization as a source of energy at the origin of life

  title={Serpentinization as a source of energy at the origin of life},
  author={Michael J. Russell and A. J. Hall and William F. Martin},
For life to have emerged from CO2, rocks, and water on the early Earth, a sustained source of chemically transducible energy was essential. The serpentinization process is emerging as an increasingly likely source of that energy. Serpentinization of ultramafic crust would have continuously supplied hydrogen, methane, minor formate, and ammonia, as well as calcium and traces of acetate, molybdenum and tungsten, to off‐ridge alkaline hydrothermal springs that interfaced with the metal‐rich… 
Serpentinization: Connecting Geochemistry, Ancient Metabolism and Industrial Hydrogenation
It is suggested that at the onset of life, essential reactions leading to reduced carbon and reduced nitrogen occurred with catalysts that were synthesized during the serpentinization process, connecting the chemistry of life and Earth to industrial chemistry in unexpected ways.
The Origin of Life in Alkaline Hydrothermal Vents.
The perplexing differences in carbon and energy metabolism in methanogenic archaea and acetogenic bacteria are analyzed to propose a possible ancestral mechanism of CO2 reduction in alkaline hydrothermal vents and it is shown that the evolution of active ion pumping could have driven the deep divergence of bacteria and archaea.
Serpentinite and the dawn of life
Submarine hydrothermal vents above serpentinite produce chemical potential gradients of aqueous and ionic hydrogen, thus providing a very attractive venue for the origin of life. This environment was
Geoelectrochemical CO production: Implications for the autotrophic origin of life
It is shown that, simulating a geoelectrochemical environment in deep-sea hydrothermal fields, CO production with up to ~40% Faraday efficiency was attainable on CdS in CO2-saturated NaCl solution at ≤–1 V (versus the standard hydrogen electrode), and Wächtershäuser’s scenario starting from CO2 was likely to be realized in the Hadean ocean hydroThermal systems.
Redox status of Fe in serpentinites of the Coast Range and Zambales Ophiolite
Although, the reduced status of the Earth’s upper mantle is a possible controller of the deep, rock-hosted biosphere, knowledge of the redox state of the mantle is incomplete. Peridotites (mantle
A Hydrothermal-Sedimentary Context for the Origin of Life
This work document constant permeation of the porous, carbonaceous, and reactive sedimentary layer by hydrothermal fluids emanating from the crust, representing a widespread system of miniature chemical reactors in which the production and complexification of prebiotic molecules could have led to the origin of life.
The Possible Emergence of Life and Differentiation of a Shallow Biosphere on Irradiated Icy Worlds: The Example of Europa
Iradiated ice-covered ocean worlds with rocky mafic mantles may provide the conditions needed to drive the emergence and maintenance of life, and in such chemostatic environments, fuels may eventually outweigh oxidants.
Green Rust: The Simple Organizing ‘Seed’ of All Life?
The precipitation of green rust, along with subsidiary iron sulfides and minor concentrations of nickel, cobalt, and molybdenum in the environment at the alkaline springs, may have established both the key bio-syntonic disequilibria and the means to properly make use of them—the elements needed to effect the essential inanimate-to-animate transitions that launched life.


Serpentinization and its implications for life on the early Earth and Mars.
The petrology and mineral chemistry of an ophiolite-hosted cold spring in northern California is described and criteria to aid in the identification of serpentinizing terranes on Mars that have the potential to harbor chemosynthetic life are proposed.
The emergence of life from iron monosulphide bubbles at a submarine hydrothermal redox and pH front
The hypothesis is that the FeS membrane, laced with nickel, acted as a semipermeable catalytic boundary between the two fluids, encouraging synthesis of organic anions by hydrogenation and carboxylation of hydrothermal organic primers, and led to the miniaturization of the metabolizing system.
The onset and early evolution of life
It is suggested that this chemosynthetic life emerged within hydrothermal mounds produced by alkaline solutions of moderate temperature in the relative safety of the deep ocean fl oor and protected the catalytically and electrochemically active pyrophosphate and iron/nickel sulfi de clusters, from dissolution or crystallization.
Submarine hydrothermal vents and associated gradient environments as sites for the origin and evolution of life
Submarine hydrothermal vents are the only comtemporary geological environment which may be called truly primeval; they continue to be a major source of gases and dissolved elements to the modern
Hydrothermal Focusing of Chemical and Chemiosmotic Energy, Supported by Delivery of Catalytic Fe, Ni, Mo/W, Co, S and Se, Forced Life to Emerge
It is argued that the first carbon-fixing reaction was the molybdenum-dependent, proton-translocating formate hydrogenlyase system described by Andrews et al. (Microbiology 143:3633–3647, 1997), but driven in reverse.
On the origin of biochemistry at an alkaline hydrothermal vent
  • W. Martin, M. Russell
  • Biology, Chemistry
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2006
Thermodynamic considerations related to formyl pterin synthesis suggest that the ability to harness a naturally pre-existing proton gradient at the vent–ocean interface via an ATPase is older than the able to generate a protongradient with chemistry that is specified by genes.
The geochemical modelling of emergent life from submarine hydrothermal environments
Hydrothermal systems may have been more widespread in the Hadean due to a greater heat flux. To investigate this possibility, and unravel the mechanism(s) by which the pH of high-temperature vent
Geodynamic and metabolic cycles in the Hadean
Abstract. High-degree melting of hot dry Hadean mantle at ocean ridges and plumes resulted in a crust about 30km thick, overlain in places by extensive and thick mafic volcanic plateaus. Continental
From volcanic origins of chemoautotrophic life to Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya
  • G. Wächtershäuser
  • Biology
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2006
The theory of a chemoautotrophic origin of life in a volcanic iron–sulphur world postulates a pioneer organism at sites of reducing volcanic exhalations that gave rise to two major strands of evolution: cellularization and emergence of the genetic machinery.