Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 93–100

Origin of fatty acid synthesis: Thermodynamics and kinetics of reaction pathways

  • Arthur L. Weber

DOI: 10.1007/BF02515381

Cite this article as:
Weber, A.L. J Mol Evol (1991) 32: 93. doi:10.1007/BF02515381


The primitiveness of contemporary fatty acid biosynthesis was evaluated by using the thermodynamics and kinetics of its component reactions to estimate the extent of its dependence on powerful and selective catalysis by enzymes. Since this analysis indicated that the modern pathway is not primitive because it requires sophisticated enzymatic catalysis, we here propose an alternative pathway of primitive fatty acid synthesis that uses glycolaldehyde as a substrate. In contrast to the modern pathway, this primitive pathway is not dependent on an exogenous source of phosphoanhydride energy (ATP). Furthermore, the chemical spontaneity of its reactions suggests that it could have been readily catalyzed by the rudimentary biocatalysts available at an early stage in the origin of life.

Key words

Primitive fatty acid synthesisEvolution of metabolismMolecular evolutionPrebioticOrigin of metabolism

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arthur L. Weber
    • 1
  1. 1.The Salk Institute for Biological StudiesSan DiegoUSA