Phosphorus: a Case for Mineral-Organic Reactions in Prebiotic Chemistry
- 570 Downloads
The ubiquity of phosphorus (P) in modern biochemistry suggests that P may have participated in prebiotic chemistry prior to the emergence of life. Of the major biogenic elements, phosphorus alone lacks a substantial volatile phase and its ultimate source therefore had to have been a mineral. However, as most native P minerals are chemically un-reactive within the temperature-pressure-pH regimes of contemporary life, it begs the question as to whether the most primitive early living systems on earth had access to a more chemically reactive P-mineral inventory. The meteoritic mineral schreibersite has been proposed as an important source of reactive P on the early earth. The chemistry of schreibersite as a P source is summarized and reviewed here. Recent work has also shown that reduced oxidation state P compounds were present on the early earth; these compounds lend credence to the relevance of schreibersite as a prebiotic mineral. Ultimately, schreibersite will oxidize to phosphate, but several high-energy P intermediates may have provided the reactive material necessary for incorporating P into prebiotic molecules.
KeywordsPhosphorus Prebiotic Schreibersite Surface chemistry Radical reactions Phosphorylation
This work was jointly supported by NSF and the NASA Astrobiology Program, under the NSF Center for Chemical Evolution, CHE-1004570 (M.A.P.). We thank Greg Springsteen for several helpful comments that improved this manuscript.
- Berzelius JJ (1832) Undersokning af en vid Bohumiliz i Bohmen funnen jernmassa. Kongelige Svenska Vetenskaps-Academiens Handlingar 106–119Google Scholar
- Bryant DE, Greenfield D, Walshaw RD, Johnson BR, Herschy B, Smith C, Pasek MA, Telford R, Scowen I, Munshi T, Edwards HGM, Cousins CR, Crawford I, Kee TP (2013) Hydrothermal modification of the Sikhote-Alin iron meteorite under low pH geothermal environments. A plausibly prebiotic route to activated phosphorus on the early Earth. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 109:90–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Descostes M, Mercier F, Thromat N, Beaucaire C, Gautier-Soyer M (2000) Use of XPS in the determination of chemical environment and oxidation state of iron and sulfur samples: constitution of a data basis in binding energies for Fe and S reference compounds and applications to the evidence of surface species of an oxidized pyrite in a carbonate medium. Appl Surf Sci 165:288–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Gulick A (1955) Phosphorus as a factor in the origin of life. Am Sci 43:479–489Google Scholar
- Herschy B (2013) Chemical processing of phosphorus inclusions within iron meteorites and related investigations. Ph.D. thesis. University of Leeds, 281 ppGoogle Scholar
- Melosh HJ (1989) Impact cratering: a geologic process. Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford Monographs on Geology and Geophysics, No. 11. 253 ppGoogle Scholar
- Miller SL, Urey HC (1959) Organic compound synthesis on the primitive earth. Science 130:245–251Google Scholar
- Van Wazer JR (1958) Phosphorus and its compounds. Interscience, New York, 954 ppGoogle Scholar