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  Serpentinization: Connecting Geochemistry, Ancient Metabolism and Industrial Hydrogenation

Preiner, M., Xavier, J. C., Sousa, F. L., Zimorski, V., Neubeck, A., Lang, S. Q., et al. (2018). Serpentinization: Connecting Geochemistry, Ancient Metabolism and Industrial Hydrogenation. Life, 8(4): 41. doi:10.3390/life8040041.

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Preiner, Martina1, Author
Xavier, Joana C.1, Author
Sousa, Filipa L.2, Author
Zimorski, Verena1, Author
Neubeck, Anna3, Author
Lang, Susan Q.4, Author
Greenwell, H. Chris5, Author
Kleinermanns, Karl6, Author
Tüysüz, Harun7, Author           
McCollom, Tom M.8, Author
Holm, Nils G.9, Author
Martin, William F.1, Author
1Institute of Molecular Evolution, University of Düsseldorf, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany, ou_persistent22              
2Division of Archaea Biology and Ecogenomics, Department of Ecogenomics and Systems Biology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14 UZA I, 1090 Vienna, Austria, ou_persistent22              
3Department of Earth Sciences, Palaeobiology, Uppsala University, Geocentrum, Villavägen 16, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden, ou_persistent22              
4School of the Earth, Ocean, and Environment, University of South Carolina, 701 Sumter St. EWS 401, Columbia, SC 29208, USA, ou_persistent22              
5Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University, South Road, DH1 3LE Durham, UK, ou_persistent22              
6Institute for Physical Chemistry, University of Düsseldorf, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany, ou_persistent22              
7Research Group Tüysüz, Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Max Planck Society, ou_1950290              
8Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA, ou_persistent22              
9Department of Geological Sciences, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden, ou_persistent22              


Free keywords: rock–water–carbon interactions; origin of life; carbides; iron sulfur; early metabolism
 Abstract: Rock–water–carbon interactions germane to serpentinization in hydrothermal vents have occurred for over 4 billion years, ever since there was liquid water on Earth. Serpentinization converts iron(II) containing minerals and water to magnetite (Fe3O4) plus H2. The hydrogen can generate native metals such as awaruite (Ni3Fe), a common serpentinization product. Awaruite catalyzes the synthesis of methane from H2 and CO2 under hydrothermal conditions. Native iron and nickel catalyze the synthesis of formate, methanol, acetate, and pyruvate—intermediates of the acetyl-CoA pathway, the most ancient pathway of CO2 fixation. Carbon monoxide dehydrogenase (CODH) is central to the pathway and employs Ni0 in its catalytic mechanism. CODH has been conserved during 4 billion years of evolution as a relic of the natural CO2-reducing catalyst at the onset of biochemistry. The carbide-containing active site of nitrogenase—the only enzyme on Earth that reduces N2—is probably also a relic, a biological reconstruction of the naturally occurring inorganic catalyst that generated primordial organic nitrogen. Serpentinization generates Fe3O4 and H2, the catalyst and reductant for industrial CO2 hydrogenation and for N2 reduction via the Haber–Bosch process. In both industrial processes, an Fe3O4 catalyst is matured via H2-dependent reduction to generate Fe5C2 and Fe2N respectively. Whether serpentinization entails similar catalyst maturation is not known. We suggest that at the onset of life, essential reactions leading to reduced carbon and reduced nitrogen occurred with catalysts that were synthesized during the serpentinization process, connecting the chemistry of life and Earth to industrial chemistry in unexpected ways.


Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2018-08-272018-09-202018-09-22
 Publication Status: Published online
 Pages: 22
 Publishing info: -
 Table of Contents: -
 Rev. Type: Peer
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.3390/life8040041
 Degree: -



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Title: Life
Source Genre: Journal
Publ. Info: Basel, Switzerland : MDPI AG
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 8 (4) Sequence Number: 41 Start / End Page: - Identifier: ISSN: 2075-1729
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/2075-1729