The Prebiotic Phase of the Origin of Life as Seen by a Physical Chemist

  • V. N. Parmon


It is shown that the main sufficient distinction of living matter from nonequilibrium abiogenic chemical systems seems to be the existence of a biological memory which allows the natural selection and thus an adaptive evolution of living systems. The known carriers of that biological memory in the currently existing terrestrial living systems are only the DNA molecules. However, the existence of a primitive ‘memory’ without a DNA support is characteristic of autocatalytic systems having the properties of chemical mutation of autocatalysts. For this reason such autocatalytic systems can be considered as a real abiogenic predecessor of life on prebiotic Earth. The most interesting among the known autocatalytic systems with the ‘mutation’ properties appears to be the Formosa reaction, i.e., autocatalytic aqueous synthesis of monosaccharides from formaldehyde in the presence of calcium hydroxide. One can expect that the Formosa reaction could initiate the above-mentioned prebiological evolution resulting in appearance of ribose which is known as a key element of both RNA and DNA molecules.


Natural Selection Living System Calcium Hydroxide Cyanic Acid Biological Memory 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. N. Parmon
    • 1
  1. 1.Boreskov Institute of CatalysisNovosibirskRussia

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