What are the most popular Origins of Life narratives?

There are many different theories and hypotheses about the origins of life, and the specific mechanisms responsible for the emergence of life are still not fully understood. However, some origins of life hypotheses are more widely accepted or popular than others.

One of the most widely accepted hypotheses about the origins of life is the RNA world hypothesis. This theory proposes that RNA, a molecule that plays a central role in the synthesis and regulation of proteins, was the first form of genetic material and the precursor to DNA. According to this theory, RNA may have been able to replicate and evolve on its own, leading to the emergence of more complex life forms.

Another widely accepted hypothesis about the origins of life is the metabolic theory of the origin of life. This theory proposes that the first living organisms were simple metabolic systems that could extract energy from their environment and use it to synthesize complex organic molecules. According to this theory, the emergence of life resulted from a series of chemical reactions that occurred in the presence of energy sources such as UV radiation or lightning.

Overall, the origins of life are a complex and ongoing area of scientific research, and there are many different hypotheses about the specific mechanisms responsible for the emergence of life on Earth.

Setting constraints on origins of life’ hypotheses. Example 1: thioester world and metabolism first in hydrothermal vents

When it comes to origins of life (Ool) hypotheses, we are often served with beautiful stories on how one event follows another and then you get life. But, the devil is always in the details and we want it to be out, to be known and to be addressed.

“Only when negative results are permitted and theories can be abandoned will science  progress in this area (OoL)”

-Robert Shapiro (1935 – 2011)

Here is a summary of my recent paper addressing a weakness in the metabolism first hypotheses in hydrothermal vents.

Thioesters, the prebiotic analogues of Acetyl coenzyme A is a linchpin organic compound in respiration processes in life. Its occurrences have been transposed into geochemical settings such as hydrothermal vents to form many metabolism first schemes for origins of life in the last 40 years or so. One glaring problem, despite the usual poised narration, is that, this hypothesis have survived so long without through investigations for that many years. Now, researchers at Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI), an institute incepted to exclusively study the origins problem is doing just that, to set constrains on current OoL models and to produce more experimentally driven principles to understand the origins of life.

The open-source paper available in Sci.report, has demonstrated that the accumulated concentration of thioesters in HT vents are too insignificant to launch any meaningful progression in metabolism first schemes. Additionally, thioester (like Acetyl-Co-A) has a very limited shelf life; the researchers measured the decay rate and concluded that, depending on thioesters speciation and physical conditions, they are unlikely to persist in hydrothermal vent conditions for long, thus constraining the metabolism first hypotheses.

p.s: We are extremely delighted to get this piece out in an open source journal.


Figure is showing the possible formation of thioacetic acids, in blue and thioesters (methyl thioacetic acid) , in pink in hydrothermal vent systems.


Authors: Kuhan Chandru, Alexis Gilbert, Christopher Butch, Masashi Aono and Henderson James Cleaves II

Title: The Abiotic Chemistry of Thiolated Acetate Derivatives and the Origins of Life

Journal: Scientific Reports, 2016

DOI: 10.1038/srep29883