Self-Organization and Prebiotic Environment

  • Silvano Traverso


The hypothesis that the first step towards life took place in an aqueous medium gives rise to a number of thermodynamical problems. Here it is suggested that the hydrophobic layer made of hydrocarbons and other hydrophobic molecules which presumably covered the surface of primordial seas would have provided an environment more suitable than water for the concentration and polymerisation of prebiotic molecules. Furthermore, it is stressed that the emergence of self-organised molecular systems, such as Kauffman’s autocatalytic networks, requires an environment in which molecules can easily interact with each other. While water weakens electrostatic interactions, because of its high dielectric constant, a hydrophobic medium seems to be a more suitable environment for the development of self-organised catalytic systems.


High Dielectric Constant Hydrophobic Molecule Polar Amino Acid Hydrophobic Layer Genetic Information Processing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    Anders E., Pre-biotic Organic Matter from Comets and Asteroids,Nature 342 (1989), 255–257.Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    Chyba C.F., Sagan C., Endogenous Production, Exogenous Delivery and Impact-Shock Synthesis of Organic Molecules: An Inventory for the Origin of Life, Nature 355 (1992), 125–131.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. [3]
    Holland H.D., The Chemical Evolution of the Atmosphere and Oceans, Princeton U.P., Princeton 1984.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    Holm N.G., Charlou J.L., Initial Indications of Abiotic Formation of Hydrocarbons in the Rainbow Ultramafic Hydrothermal System Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 191 (2001), 1–8.Google Scholar
  5. [5]
    Lasaga A.C., Holland H.D., Dwyer M.J., Primordial Oil Slick, Science 174 (1971), 53.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. [6]
    Nicolis G., Fisica dei sistemi lontani dall’equilibrio e auto-organizzazione, in: “La Nuova Fisica”, P. Davies ed., Bollati Boringhieri, Torino 1992.Google Scholar
  7. [7]
    Morchio R., Redaelli A., Traverso S., Proteins, Nucleic Acids and Genetic Codes, Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum 94 (2001), 37.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. [8]
    Morchio R., Traverso S., The Hydrophobic Superficial Layer: The Primordial Cradle of Life, Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum 92 (1999), 105.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silvano Traverso
    • 1
  1. 1.Rivista di Biologia / Biology ForumGenovaItaly

Personalised recommendations