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The origin and early evolution of life on Earth.

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Department of Biochemical and Biophysical Sciences, University of Houston, Texas 77004, USA.
U Houston, TX, Dept Biochem and Biophys Sci
U CA at San Diego, La Jolla, Dept Chem



We do not have a detailed knowledge of the processes that led to the appearance of life on Earth. In this review we bring together some of the most important results that have provided insights into the cosmic and primitive Earth environments, particularly those environments in which life is thought to have originated. To do so, we first discuss the evidence bearing on the antiquity of life on our planet and the prebiotic significance of organic compounds found in interstellar clouds and in primitive solar system bodies such as comets, dark asteroids, and carbonaceous chondrites. This is followed by a discussion on the environmental models of the Hadean and early Archean Earth, as well as on the prebiotic formation of organic monomers and polymers essential to life. We then consider the processes that may have led to the appearance in the Archean of the first cells, and how these processes may have affected the early steps of biological evolution. Finally, the significance of these results to the study of the distribution of life in the Universe is discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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