FeS/S/FeS(2) redox system and its oxidoreductase-like chemistry in the iron-sulfur world.

PMID 21707387


The iron-sulfur world (ISW) theory is an intriguing prediction regarding the origin of life on early Earth. It hypothesizes that life arose as a geochemical process from inorganic starting materials on the surface of sulfide minerals in the vicinity of deep-sea hot springs. During the last two decades, many experimental studies have been carried out on this topic, and some interesting results have been achieved. Among them, however, the processes of carbon/nitrogen fixation and biomolecular assembly on the mineral surface have received an inordinate amount of attention. To the present, an abiotic model for the oxidation-reduction of intermediates participating in metabolic pathways has been ignored. We examined the oxidation-reduction effect of a prebiotic FeS/S/FeS(2) redox system on the interconversion between several pairs of α-hydroxy acids and α-keto acids (i.e., lactate/pyruvate, malate/oxaloacetate, and glycolate/glyoxylate). We found that, in the absence of FeS, elemental sulfur (S) oxidized α-hydroxy acids to form corresponding keto acids only at a temperature higher than its melting point (113°C); in the presence of FeS, such reactions occurred more efficiently through a coupled reaction mechanism, even at a temperature below the phase transition point of S. On the other hand, FeS was shown to have the capacity to reversibly reduce the keto acids. Such an oxidoreductase-like chemistry of the FeS/S/FeS(2) redox system suggests that it can determine the redox homeostasis of metabolic intermediates in the early evolutionary phase of life. The results provide a possible pathway for the development of primordial redox biochemistry in the iron-sulfur world. Key Words: Iron-sulfur world-FeS/S/FeS(2) redox system-Oxidoreductase-like chemistry. Astrobiology 11, 471-476.