Inversion Concept of the Origin of Life



The essence of the inversion concept of the origin of life can be narrowed down to the following theses: 1) thermodynamic inversion is the key transformation of prebiotic microsystems leading to their transition into primary forms of life; 2) this transformation might occur only in the microsystems oscillating around the bifurcation point under far-from-equilibrium conditions. The transformation consists in the inversion of the balance “free energy contribution / entropy contribution”, from negative to positive values. At the inversion moment the microsystem radically reorganizes in accordance with the new negentropy (i.e. biological) way of organization. According to this approach, the origin-of-life process on the early Earth took place in the fluctuating hydrothermal medium. The process occurred in two successive stages: a) spontaneous self-assembly of initial three-dimensional prebiotic microsystems composed mainly of hydrocarbons, lipids and simple amino acids, or their precursors, within the temperature interval of 100–300°C (prebiotic stage); b) non-spontaneous synthesis of sugars, ATP and nucleic acids started at the inversion moment under the temperature 70–100°C (biotic stage). Macro- and microfluctuations of thermodynamic and physico-chemical parameters able to sustain this way of chemical conversion have been detected in several contemporary hydrothermal systems. A minimal self-sufficient unit of life on the early Earth was a community of simplest microorganisms (not a separate microorganism).


Fluctuation Hydrothermal system Nonequilibrium thermodynamics Prebiotic chemistry 


  1. Aubrey AD, Cleaves HJ, Bada JL (2009) The role of submarine hydrothermal systems in the synthesis of amino acids. Orig Life Evol Biosph 39:91–108PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alagrov DK, Chigeru D, Tsujii K, Horikoshi K (2002) Oligomerization of glycine in supercritical water with special attention to the origin of life in deep-sea hydrothermal systems. Prog Biotechol 19:631–636CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andersson E, Holm NG (2000) The stability of some selected amino acids under attempted redox constrained hydrothermal conditions. Orig Life Evol Biosph 30:9–23PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baaske P, Weinert FM, Duhr S, Lemke KH, Russell MJ, Braun D (2007) Extreme accumulation of nucleotides in simulated hydrothermal pore systems. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104(22):9346–9351PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baltscheffsky H (1997) Major «anastrophes» in the origin and early evolution of biological energy conversion. J Theor Biol 187:495–501PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Basiuk VA, Navarro-Gonzalez R (1996) Possible role of volcanic ash-gas clouds in the Earth’s prebiotic chemistry. Orig Life Evol Biosph 26:173–194PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berndt ME, Allen DW, Seyfried WE Jr (1996) Reduction of CO2 during serpentinization of olivine at 300°C and 500 bar. Geology 24:351–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bernhardt G, Ludemann HD, Jaenicke R (1984) Biomolecules are unstable under “black smoker” conditions. Naturwissenschaften 71:583–586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cleaves HJ, Aubrey AD, Bada JL (2009) An evaluation of critical parameters for abiotic peptide synthesis in submarine hydrothermal systems. Orig Life Evol Biosph 39:109–126PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Corliss JB, Baross JA, Hoffman SE (1981) An hypothesis concerning the relationship between submarine hot springs and the origin of life on the Earth. Oceanol Acta SP 4:59–69Google Scholar
  11. Deamer DW (1985) Boundary structures are formed by organic components of the Murchison carbonaceous chondrite. Nature 317:792–794CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Deamer DW (2004) Prebiotic amphiphilic compounds. In: Seckbach J (ed) Origins. Kluwer, Netherlands, pp 75–89Google Scholar
  13. Deamer DW, Harang Mahon E, Bosco J. (1994) Self-assembly and function of primitive membrane structures. In: Bengtson S (ed) Early life on earth. Nobel Symposium 84, Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 107–123Google Scholar
  14. Deamer D, Dworkin JP, Sandford SA, Bernstein MP, Allamandola LJ (2002) The first cell membranes. Astrobiology 2:371–382PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Deamer D, Singaram S, Rajamani S, Kompanichenko V, Guggenheim S (2006) Self-assembly processes in the prebiotic environment. Philos Trans R Soc B 361(1474):1809–1818CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. De Duve C (2002) Life is what is common to all living beings. In: Palyi G, Zucci C, Caglioti L (eds) Fundamentals of life. Elsevier, Paris, pp 26–27Google Scholar
  17. Delitsin LM, Melentyev BM, Delitsina LV (1974) Segregation in melts—insipience, development, and stabilization. Doklady Acad Sci USSR 219(1):190–193, In RussianGoogle Scholar
  18. Didyk BM, Simoneit BRT (1990) Petroleum characteristics of the oil in a Guamaras basin hydrothermal chimney. In: Simoneit BRT (ed) Organic Matter Alteration in Hydrothermal Systems—Petroleum Generation, Migration and Biogeochemistry. Appl Geochem 5:29–40Google Scholar
  19. Ebeling W, Engel A, Feistel R (1990) Physik der evolutionsprozesse. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin, In GermanGoogle Scholar
  20. Ehrenfreund P, Rasmussen S, Cleaves J, Chen L (2006) Experimentally tracing the key steps in the origin of life: the aromatic world. Astrobiology 6(3):490–520PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Elitzur A (2002) Life is what is common to all living beings. In: Palyi G, Zucci C, Caglioti L (eds) Fundamentals of life. Elsevier, Paris, pp 27–28Google Scholar
  22. Fedonkin MA (2008) Ancient biosphere: the origin, trends and events. Russ Jour Earth Sci 10:1–9. doi:10.2205/2007ES000252 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Feistel R., Ebeling W. (2011) Physics of Self-organization and Evolution. Wiley, VCHGoogle Scholar
  24. Fox S, Dose K (1975) Molecular evolution and the origin of life. Dekker, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Galimov EM (2006) Phenomenon of life: between equilibrium and nonlinearity. Origin and Principles of Evolution. Editorial URSS, Moscow (In Russian)Google Scholar
  26. Gladyshev GP (1995) About dynamic direction of biological evolution. Izvestia Russ Acad Sci, Ser Biol 1:5–14Google Scholar
  27. Haken H (1978) Synergetics. Springer, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Haken H (2003) Special issue: nonlinear phenomena in complex systems 5(4)Google Scholar
  29. Hengeveld R, Fedonkin MA (2007) Bootstrapping the energy flow in the beginning of life. Acta Biotheor 55:181–226PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hennet RJ-C, Holm NG, Engel MH (1992) Abiotic synthesis of amino acids under hydrothermal conditions and the origin of life: a perpetual phenomenon? Naturwissenschaften 79:361–365PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ho M-W (ed) (1995) Living processes. Book 2: Bioenergetics. Open University Press, Milton KeynesGoogle Scholar
  32. Holm NG, Andersson E (2005) Hydrothermal simulation experiments as a tool for studies for the origin of life on Earth and other terrestrial planets: a review. Astrobiology 5(4):444–460PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Holm NG, Charlou JL (2001) Initial indications of abiotic formation of hydrocarbons in the Rainbow ultramafic hydrothermal system, Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Earth Planet Sci Lett 191:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Holm NG, Neubeck A (2009) Reduction of nitrogen compounds in oceanic basement and its implications for HCN formation and abiotic organic synthesis. Geochem Trans 10:9. doi:10.1186/1467-4866-10-9 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Horgan J (1991) Near cradle of life. V Mire Nauki 4:68–79 in Russian (Translated from: 1991). Sci Am 264(2):68–79Google Scholar
  36. Huber C, Wächtershäuser G (1998) Peptides by activation of amino acids with CO on (Ni, Fe)S surfaces: implications for the origin of life. Science 281:670–672PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Imai E, Honda H, Hatori K, Brack A, Matsuno K (1999) Elongation of oligopeptides in a simulated hydrothermal system. Science 283:831–833PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Isidorov VA, Zenkevich IG, Karpov GA (1992) Volatile organic compounds in steam-gas outflows of several volcanoes and hydrothermal systems in Kamchatka. Volc Seis 13(3):287–293Google Scholar
  39. Joyce GF, Schwartz AW, Miller SL, Orgel LE (1987) The case for an ancestral genetic system involving simple analogs of nucleotides. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 84:4398–4402PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kelley DS (1996) Methane-rich fluids in the oceanic crust. J Geophys Res 101:2943–2962CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Knauth LP, Lowe DR (2003) High Archaean climatic temperature inferred from oxygen isotope geochemistry of cherts in the 3.5 Ga Swaziland Supergroup, South Africa. Geol Soc Am Bull 115(5):566–580CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kohara M, Gamo T, Yanagawa H, Kobayashi K (1997) Stability of amino acids in simulated hydrothermal vent environments. Chem Lett 1997:1053–1054CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kompanichenko VN (2003) Distinctive properties of biological systems: the all-round comparison with other natural systems. Front Perspect 12(1):23–35Google Scholar
  44. Kompanichenko VN (2004) Systemic approach to the origin of life. Front Perspect 13(1):22–40Google Scholar
  45. Kompanichenko VN (2008) Three stages of the origin-of-life process: bifurcation, stabilization and inversion. Int J Astrobiol 7(1):27–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kompanichenko VN (2009a) Changeable hydrothermal media as a potential cradle of life on a planet. Planet Space Sci 57:468–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kompanichenko VN (2009b) Way from physical nonequilibrium to biological evolution. Chem Phys Res J 2(3):199–214Google Scholar
  48. Kompanichenko VN (2009c) Organic matter in hydrothermal systems of Kamchatka: relevance to the origin of life. Orig Life Evol Biosph 39:338–339Google Scholar
  49. Kompanichenko VN (2012a) Thermodynamic inversion and self-reproduction with variations: integrated view on the life-nonlife border. J Biomol Struct Dyn 29(4):637–639PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Kompanichenko VN (2012b) Origin of life by thermodynamic inversion: a universal process. In: Seckbach J (ed) Genesis—In the beginning: precursors of life, chemical models and early biological evolution. Springer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  51. Kralj P, Kralj P (2000) Thermal and mineral waters in north-eastern Slovenia. Environ Geol 39(5):488–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Larralde R, Robertson M, Miller S (1995) Rates of decomposition of ribose and other sugars: implications for chemical evolution. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 92:8158–8160PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Letnikov FA (1992) Synergetics of geological systems. Nauka, Novosibirsk (In Russian)Google Scholar
  54. Levy M, Miller SL, Brinton K, Bada JL (2000) Prebiotic synthesis of adenine and amino acids under Europa-like conditions. Icarus 145:609–613PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Lin S-K (1996) Correlation of entropy with similarity and symmetry. J Chem Inf Comp Sci 36:367–376Google Scholar
  56. Markhinin EK, Podkletnov NE (1977) The phenomenon of formation of prebiological compounds in volcanic processes. Orig Life 3:225–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Marshall WL (1994) Hydrothermal synthesis of amino acids. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 58:2099–2106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Martin W, Russell JM (2007) On the origin of biochemistry at an alkaline hydrothermal vent. Philos Trans R Soc B 362:1887–1925CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. McCollom TM, Ritter G, Simoneit BRT (1999) Lipid synthesis under hydrothermal conditions by Fischer-Tropsch type reactions. Orig Life Evol Biosph 29:152–166Google Scholar
  60. McCollom TM, Seewald JS (2001) A reassessment of the potential for reduction of dissolved CO2 to hydrocarbons during serpentinization of olivine. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 65:3769–3778CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Miller SL, Bada JL (1988) Submarine hot springs and the origin of life. Nature 334:609–611PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Morrison D (2001) The NASA astrobiology program. Astrobiology 1(1):3–13PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Mukhin LM, Vasiljev VN, Ponomarev VV (1974) Discovery of hydrogen cyanide and its derivatives in regions of active volcanism. Doklady Acad Sci USSR 215(5):1253–1254Google Scholar
  64. Mukhin LM, Bondarev VB, Vakin EA, Iljukhina II, Kalinichenko VI, Milekhina EI, Safonova EN (1979) Amino acids in hydrothermal systems in Southern Kamchatka. Doklady Acad Sci USSR 244(4):974–977Google Scholar
  65. Nicolis G, Prigogine I (1977) Self-organization in Nonequilibrium Systems. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  66. Pace NR (1991) Origin of life—facing up to the physical setting. Cell 65:531–533PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Palyi G, Zucci C, Caglioti L (eds) (2002) Fundamentals of life. Elsevier, ParisGoogle Scholar
  68. Polishchuk R (2002) Life as a negentropy current and infinity problem. In: Palyi G, Zucci C, Caglioti L (eds) Fundamentals of life. Elsevier, Paris, pp 141–152Google Scholar
  69. Prigogine I, Stengers I (1984) Order out of chaos. Bantam, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  70. Robert F, Chaussidon M (2006) A palaeotemperature curve for the Precambrian oceans based on silicon isotopes in cherts. Nature 443:969–972PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Rushdi AI, Simoneit BRT (2001) Lipid formation by aqueous Fischer-Tropsch type synthesis over a temperature range of 100–400°C. Orig Life Evol Biosph 31:103–118PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Rushdi AI, Simoneit BRT (2004) Condensation reactions and formation of amides, esters, and nitriles under hydrothermal conditions. Astrobiology 4(2):211–224PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Russell MJ (2003) The importance of being alkaline. Science 302:580–581PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Russell MJ, Hall AJ, Boyce AJ, Fallick AE (2005) On hydrothermal convection and the emergence of life. Econ Geol 100:419–438Google Scholar
  75. Schwartzman DW, Lineweaver CH (2004) The hyperthermophilic origin of life revisited. Biochem Soc Trans 32(2):168–171PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Selye H (1974) Stress without distress. JB Lippincott Company, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  77. Sharapov VN, Averkin JuA (1990) Dynamics of heat- and mass-exchange in orto-magmatic fluid systems. Nauka, Novosibirsk (In Russian)Google Scholar
  78. Shields GA, Kasting JF (2007) Evidence for hot early ocean? Nature 447. doi:10.1038/nature05831
  79. Shock EL, McCollom TM, Schulte MD (1998) The emergence of metabolism from within hydrothermal systems. In: Wiegel J, Adams MWW (eds) Thermophiles: the keys to molecular evolution and the origin of life. Taylor and Francis, Washington, pp 59–76Google Scholar
  80. Simoneit BRT (1993) Aqueous high-temperature and high-pressure organic geochemistry of hydrothermal vent systems. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 57:3231–3243PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Simoneit BRT (2003) Petroleum generation, extraction and migration and abiogenic synthesis in hydrothermal systems. In: Ikan R (ed) Natural and laboratory simulated thermal geochemical processes. Kluwer, Netherlands, pp 1–30Google Scholar
  82. Simoneit BRT (2004) Prebiotic organic synthesis under hydrothermal conditions: an overview. Adv Space Res 33:88–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Simoneit BRT, Lein AY, Peresupkin VI, Osipov GA (2004) Composition and origin of hydrothermal petroleum and associated lipids in the sulfide deposits of the Rainbow field (Mid-Atlantic Ridge at 36ºN). Geochim Cosmochim Acta 68(10):2275–2294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Sowerby SJ, Petersen JB, Holm NG (2002) Primordial coding of amino acids by adsorbed purine bases. Orig Life Evol Biosph 32:35–46PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Stetter KO (1995) Microbial life in hyperhermal environments. ASM News 61(6):328–340Google Scholar
  86. Strazewski P (2007) How did translation occur? Orig Life Evol Biosph 37:399–401PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Vergne J, Dumas L, Decout J-L, Maurel M-C (2000) Possible prebiotic catalysts formed from adenine and aldehyde. Planet Space Sci 48:1139–1142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Vernadsky VI (1980) Problems of biogeochemistry. Nauka, Moscow (In Russian)Google Scholar
  89. Wächtershäuser G (1988) Before enzymes and templates: theory of surface metabolism. Microbiol Rev 52:452–484PubMedGoogle Scholar
  90. Washington J (2000) The possible role of volcanic aquifers in prebiotic genesis of organic compounds and RNA. Orig Life Evol Biosph 30:53–79PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. White DE (1957) Thermal waters of volcanic origin. Bull Geol Soc Am 63Google Scholar
  92. Yamagata Y, Watanabe H, Saitoh M, Namba T (1991) Volcanic production of polyphosphates and its relevance to prebiotic evolution. Nature 352:516–519PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Yokoyama S, Koyama A, Nemoto A, Honda H, Hatori K, Matsuno K (2003) Amplification of diverse catalytic properties of evolving molecules in a simulated hydrothermal environment. Orig Life Evol Biosph 33:589–595PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Yuen G, Kvenvolden K (1973) Monocarboxylic acids in Murray and Murchison carbonaceous meteorites. Nature 246:301–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Zavarzin GA (2006) Does evolution make the essence of biology? Herald Russ Acad Sci 76(3):292–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Complex AnalysisBirobidzhanRussia

Personalised recommendations