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    Life emerged in a geochemical context, possibly in the midst of mineral substrates. However, it is not known to what extent minerals and dissolved inorganic ions could have facilitated the evolution of biochemical reactions. Herein, we have experimentally shown that iron sulfide minerals can act as electron transfer agents for the reduction of the ubiquitous biological protein cofactor nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) under anaerobic prebiotic conditions, observing the NAD+/NADH redox transition by using ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy and 1H nuclear magnetic resonance. This reaction was mediated with iron sulfide minerals, which were likely abundant on early Earth in seafloor and hydrothermal settings; and the NAD+/NADH redox reaction occurred in the absence of UV light, peptide ligand(s), or dissolved mediators. To better understand this reaction, thermodynamic modeling was also performed. The ability of an iron sulfide mineral to transfer electrons to a biochemical cofactor that is found in every living cell demonstrates how geologic materials could have played a direct role in the evolution of certain cofactor-driven metabolic pathways.


    Jessica M Weber, Bryana L Henderson, Douglas E LaRowe, Aaron D Goldman, Scott M Perl, Keith Billings, Laura M Barge. Testing Abiotic Reduction of NAD+ Directly Mediated by Iron/Sulfur Minerals. Astrobiology. 2022 Jan;22(1):25-34

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    PMID: 34591607

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