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Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 373–393 | Cite as

The Birthplace of Proto-Life: Role of Secondary Minerals in Forming Metallo-Proteins through Water-Rock Interaction of Hadean Rocks

  • Kazumi YoshiyaEmail author
  • Tomohiko Sato
  • Soichi Omori
  • Shigenori Maruyama
Prebiotic Chemistry

Abstract

The surface of Hadean Earth was mainly covered with three types of rocks—komatiite, KREEP basalt and anorthosite—which were remarkably different from those on the modern Earth. The water-rock interaction between these rocks and water provided a highly reducing environment and formed secondary minerals on the surface of the rocks that are important for producing metallo-enzymes for the emergence of primordial life. Previous studies suggested a correlation between the active site of metallo-enzymes and sulfide minerals based on the affinity of their structures, but they did not discuss the origin of metallic elements contained in these minerals which is critical to understanding where life began. We investigated secondary minerals formed through water-rock interactions of komatiite in a subaerial geyser system, then discussed the relationship between the active site of metallo-enzymes and secondary minerals. Instead of komatiite, we used serpentinite collected from the Hakuba Happo area, Nagano Prefecture in central-north Japan, which is thought to be a modern analog for the Hadean environment. We found several minor minerals, such as magnetite, chromite, pyrite and pentlandite in addition to serpentine minerals. Pentlandite has not been mentioned in previous studies as one of the candidates that could supply important metallic elements to build metallo-enzymes. It has been shown to be a catalyst for hydrogen generation possibly, because of structural similarity to the active site of hydrogenases. We consider the possibility that nickel-iron sulfide, pentlandite, could be important minerals for the origin of life. In addition, we estimated what kinds of minor minerals would be obtained from the water-rock interaction of these rocks using thermodynamic calculations. KREEP basalt contains a large amount of iron and it could be useful for producing metallo-enzymes, especially ferredoxins—electron transfer enzymes, which may have assisted in the emergence of life.

Keywords

Birthplace of life Serpentinite KREEP basalt Metallo-enzymes Metal sulfide 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Chief Editor Alan W. Schwartz and anonymous reviewer whose faithful and constructive comments improved our manuscript. We thank Dr. Jim Cleaves for discussion and comments, Ms. Reiko Hattori for technical assistance completing this paper and Ms. Lucy Kwok for improving our English. This work was supported by JSPS grants (No. 26106001, 26106002) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kazumi Yoshiya
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tomohiko Sato
    • 1
  • Soichi Omori
    • 2
  • Shigenori Maruyama
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Earth-Life Science InstituteTokyo Institute of TechnologyTokyoJapan
  2. 2.The Open University of JapanChibaJapan
  3. 3.Novosibirsk State UniversityNovosibirskRussia

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