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Published: Kem. Ind. 66 (11-12) (2017) 641–654
Paper reference number: KUI-14/2017
Paper type: Review
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Catalysis in the Primordial World

N. Raos and V. Bermanec


Catalysis provides orderly prebiotic synthesis and eventually its evolution into autocatalytic (self-reproduction) systems. Research on homogeneous catalysis is concerned mostly with random peptide synthesis and the chances to produce catalytic peptide oligomers. Synthesis of ribose via formose reaction was found to be catalysed by B(OH)4, presumably released by weathering of borate minerals. Oxide and clay mineral surfaces provide catalytic sites for the synthesis of oligopeptides and oligonucleotides. Chemoautotrophic or iron-sulphur-world theory assumes that the first (pioneer) organisms developed by catalytic processes on (Fe/Ni)S particles formed near/close hydrothermal vents. The review provides an overlay of possible catalytic reactions in prebiotic environment, discussing their selectivity (regioselectivity, stereoselectivity) as well as geological availability of catalytic minerals and geochemical conditions enabling catalytic reactions on early Earth.

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chemoautotrophic theory, formose reaction, origin of life, prebiotic chemistry, random synthesis of biopolymers