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J Mol Evol. 1993 Apr;36(4):308-14.

Prebiotic syntheses of vitamin coenzymes: II. Pantoic acid, pantothenic acid, and the composition of coenzyme A.

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Department of Chemistry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0317.
U CA, San Diego, Dept Chemistry


Pantoic acid can by synthesized in good prebiotic yield from isobutyraldehyde or alpha-ketoisovaleric acid + H2CO + HCN. Isobutyraldehyde is the Strecker precursor to valine and alpha-ketoisovaleric acid is the valine transamination product. Mg2+ and Ca2+ as well as several transition metals are catalysts for the alpha-ketoisovaleric acid reaction. Pantothenic acid is produced from pantoyl lactone (easily formed from pantoic acid) and the relatively high concentrations of beta-alanine that would be formed on drying prebiotic amino acid mixtures. There is no selectivity for this reaction over glycine, alanine, or gamma-amino butyric acid. The components of coenzyme A are discussed in terms of ease of prebiotic formation and stability and are shown to be plausible choices, but many other compounds are possible. The gamma-OH of pantoic acid needs to be capped to prevent decomposition of pantothenic acid. These results suggest that coenzyme A function was important in the earliest metabolic pathways and that the coenzyme A precursor contained most of the components of the present coenzyme.

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