Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere : the journal of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life

Is boron a prebiotic element? A mini-review of the essentiality of boron for the appearance of life on earth.

PMID 22528885


Boron is probably a prebiotic element with special importance in the so-called "sugars world". Boron is not present on Earth in its elemental form. It is found only in compounds, e.g., borax, boric acid, kernite, ulexite, colemanite and other borates. Volcanic spring waters sometimes contain boron-based acids (e.g., boric, metaboric, tetraboric and pyroboric acid). Borates influence the formation of ribofuranose from formaldehyde that feeds the "prebiotic metabolic cycle". The importance of boron in the living world is strongly related to its implications in the prebiotic origins of genetic material; consequently, we believe that throughout the evolution of life, the primary role of boron has been to provide thermal and chemical stability in hostile environments. The complexation of boric acid and borates with organic cis-diols remains the most probable chemical mechanism for the role of this element in the evolution of the living world. Because borates can stabilize ribose and form borate ester nucleotides, boron may have provided an essential contribution to the "pre-RNA world".