The Power Without the Glory: Multiple Roles of Hydrogen Peroxide in Mediating the Origin of Life




Ball, Rowena
Brindley, J

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Mary Ann Liebert Inc.


The hydrogen peroxide (HP) crucible hypothesis proposed here holds that life began in a localized environment on Earth that was perfused with a flow of hydrogen peroxide from a sustained external source, which powered and mediated molecular evolution and the protocellular RNA world. In this article, we consolidate and review recent evidence, both circumstantial and tested in simulation in our work and in the laboratory in others' work, for its multiple roles in the evolution of the first living systems: (1) it provides a periodic power source as the thiosulfate–hydrogen peroxide (THP) redox oscillator, (2) it may act as an agent of molecular change and evolution and mediator of homochirality, and (3) the THP oscillator, subject to Brownian input perturbations, produces a weighted distribution of output thermal fluctuations that favor polymerization and chemical diversification over chemical degradation and simplification. The hypothesis can help to clarify the hero and villain roles of hydrogen peroxide in cell function, and on the singularity of life: of necessity, life evolved early an armory of catalases, the continuing, and all-pervasive presence of which prevents hydrogen peroxide from accumulating anywhere in sufficient quantities to host a second origin. The HP crucible hypothesis is radical, but based on well-known chemistry and physics, it is eminently testable in the laboratory, and many of our simulations provide recipes for such experiments.



Origin of life, Chemical evolution, RNA world, THP oscillator, Nonequilibrium thermal fluctuations, Hydrogen peroxide





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