Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 93-100

First online:

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

  • Arthur L. WeberAffiliated withThe Salk Institute for Biological Studies

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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 synthesis Evolution of metabolism Molecular evolution Prebiotic Origin of metabolism