CE30 - Physique de la matière condensée et de la matière diluée

A thermodynamics-compliant emergence of life driven by redox free energy and mediated by soft, transition-metal-bearing layered nano-structures – deltaG2Life

Submission summary

Life and its emergence fundamentally depend on the conversion of environmental free energy into cellular decrease of entropy – a stricture imposed by the 2nd law of thermodynamics. This biological free energy conversion (bioenergetics) is performed by an ensemble of metalloenzymes which carry out intricate cascades of proton-coupled redox processes resulting in the generation of chemical free energy in the form of phosphorylation disequilibria. Purely inorganic, mineral-based precursors to bioenergetic systems have been discussed in the past. A particularly intriguing example of such minerals is the mixed-valence-iron-containing layered oxyhydroxide nano-mineral Green Rust (GR). GR features structural similarities to the catalytic metal-centres in a large class of metalloenzymes. In this project, we propose to investigate the catalytic reactivities, electron transfer properties as well as proton-electron coupled redox reactions performed by different versions of GR relevant to plausible conditions that prevailed on the early Earth. To tackle these questions, we have constituted a trans-disciplinary team comprising expertise from bioenergetics, nano-sciences, mineralogy and biogeochemistry. Results from this project will (a) improve our understanding of the properties of soft, clay-like, redox-active nano-minerals and (b) empirically test a specific hypothesis for the emergence of life from entirely inorganic settings.

Project coordination

Wolfgang NITSCHKE (Centre national de la recherche scientifique_Délégation Provence et Corse_Bioénergétique et ingénierie des protéines)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


LCPME Centre national de la recherche scientifique
CNRS DR12_BIP Centre national de la recherche scientifique_Délégation Provence et Corse_Bioénergétique et ingénierie des protéines
CINaM Centre national de la recherche scientifique
IMPMC Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle Paris

Help of the ANR 473,675 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2022 - 48 Months

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