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Chemical Constraints Governing the Origin of Metabolism: The Thermodynamic Landscape of Carbon Group TransformationsThe thermodynamics of organic chemistry under mild aqueous conditions was examined in order to begin to understand its influence on the structure and operation of metabolism and its antecedents. Free energies were estimated for four types reactions of biochemical importance carbon-carbon bond cleavage and synthesis, hydrogen transfer between carbon groups, dehydration of alcohol groups, and aldo-keto isomerization. The energies were calculated for mainly aliphatic groups composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The energy values showed that (1) when carbon-carbon bond cleavage involves two different types of functional groups, transfer of the shared electron-pair to the more reduced carbon group is energetically favored over transfer to the more oxidized carbon group, and (2) the energy of carbon-carbon bond transformation is strongly dependent on the type of functional group that donates the shared electron-pair during cleavage, and the group that accepts the shared electron-pair during synthesis, and (3) the energetics of C-C bond transformation is determined primarily by the half-reaction energies of the couples: carbonyl/carboxylic acid, carboxylic acid/carbon dioxide, alcohol/carbonyl, and hydrocarbon/alcohol. The energy of hydrogen-transfer between carbon groups was found to depend on the functional group class of both the hydrogen-donor and hydrogen-acceptor. From these and other observations we concluded that the chemistry of the origin of metabolism (and to a lesser degree modem metabolism) is strongly constrained by the (1) limited disproportionation energy of organic substrates that can be dissipated in a few irreversible reactions, (2) the energy-dominance of few half-reaction couples in carbon-carbon bond transformation that establishes whether a chemical reaction is energetically irreversible, reversible or unfeasible, and (3) the dependence of the transformation-energy on the oxidation state of carbon groups (functional group type) which is contingent on prior reactions in the synthetic pathway.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Weber, Arthur L. (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Inst. Moffett Field, CA United States)
Fonda, Mark
Date Acquired
August 20, 2013
Publication Date
November 13, 2001
Subject Category
Chemistry and Materials (General)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.