skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Remnants of an Ancient Metabolism without Phosphate

Abstract

Phosphate is essential for all living systems, serving as a building block of genetic and metabolic machinery. However, it is unclear how phosphate could have assumed these central roles on primordial Earth, given its poor geochemical accessibility. We used systems biology approaches to explore the alternative hypothesis that a protometabolism could have emerged prior to the incorporation of phosphate. Surprisingly, we identified a cryptic phosphate-independent core metabolism producible from simple prebiotic compounds. This network is predicted to support the biosynthesis of a broad category of key biomolecules. Its enrichment for enzymes utilizing iron-sulfur clusters, and the fact that thermodynamic bottlenecks are more readily overcome by thioester rather than phosphate couplings, suggest that this network may constitute a ‘‘metabolic fossil’’ of an early phosphate-free nonenzymatic biochemistry. Thus, our results corroborate and expand previous proposals that a putative thioester-based metabolism could have predated the incorporation of phosphate and an RNA-based genetic system.

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [3];  [4]
  1. Boston Univ., MA (United States). Bioinformatics Program
  2. Massachusetts Inst. of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA (United States). Earth, Atmosphere and Planetary Science Dept.
  3. Boston Univ., MA (United States). Bioinformatics Program and Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
  4. Boston Univ., MA (United States). Bioinformatics Program and Dept. of Biomedical Engineering and Dept. of Biology and Dept. of Physics
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Boston Univ., MA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE; National Science Foundation (NSF); European Union (EU); National Institutes of Health (NIH)
OSTI Identifier:
1377637
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1425650
Grant/Contract Number:  
SC0012627; DEB-07NA273441457695; NSFOCE-BSF-1635070; T32GM100842
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Published Article
Journal Name:
Cell
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 168; Journal Issue: 6; Journal ID: ISSN 0092-8674
Publisher:
Elsevier
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; 58 GEOSCIENCES; origin of life; phosphate; thioester world; network expansion; systems biology

Citation Formats

Goldford, Joshua E., Hartman, Hyman, Smith, Temple F., and Segrè, Daniel. Remnants of an Ancient Metabolism without Phosphate. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2017.02.001.
Goldford, Joshua E., Hartman, Hyman, Smith, Temple F., & Segrè, Daniel. Remnants of an Ancient Metabolism without Phosphate. United States. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2017.02.001.
Goldford, Joshua E., Hartman, Hyman, Smith, Temple F., and Segrè, Daniel. Thu . "Remnants of an Ancient Metabolism without Phosphate". United States. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2017.02.001.
@article{osti_1377637,
title = {Remnants of an Ancient Metabolism without Phosphate},
author = {Goldford, Joshua E. and Hartman, Hyman and Smith, Temple F. and Segrè, Daniel},
abstractNote = {Phosphate is essential for all living systems, serving as a building block of genetic and metabolic machinery. However, it is unclear how phosphate could have assumed these central roles on primordial Earth, given its poor geochemical accessibility. We used systems biology approaches to explore the alternative hypothesis that a protometabolism could have emerged prior to the incorporation of phosphate. Surprisingly, we identified a cryptic phosphate-independent core metabolism producible from simple prebiotic compounds. This network is predicted to support the biosynthesis of a broad category of key biomolecules. Its enrichment for enzymes utilizing iron-sulfur clusters, and the fact that thermodynamic bottlenecks are more readily overcome by thioester rather than phosphate couplings, suggest that this network may constitute a ‘‘metabolic fossil’’ of an early phosphate-free nonenzymatic biochemistry. Thus, our results corroborate and expand previous proposals that a putative thioester-based metabolism could have predated the incorporation of phosphate and an RNA-based genetic system.},
doi = {10.1016/j.cell.2017.02.001},
journal = {Cell},
number = 6,
volume = 168,
place = {United States},
year = {Thu Mar 09 00:00:00 EST 2017},
month = {Thu Mar 09 00:00:00 EST 2017}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record at 10.1016/j.cell.2017.02.001

Citation Metrics:
Cited by: 19 works
Citation information provided by
Web of Science

Save / Share: