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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Jul 5;97(14):7704-8.

The origin of intermediary metabolism.

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Krasnow Institute of Advanced Study, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA.
George Mason U, Fairfax, VA


The core of intermediary metabolism in autotrophs is the citric acid cycle. In a certain group of chemoautotrophs, the reductive citric acid cycle is an engine of synthesis, taking in CO(2) and synthesizing the molecules of the cycle. We have examined the chemistry of a model system of C, H, and O that starts with carbon dioxide and reductants and uses redox couples as the energy source. To inquire into the reaction networks that might emerge, we start with the largest available database of organic molecules, Beilstein on-line, and prune by a set of physical and chemical constraints applicable to the model system. From the 3.5 million entries in Beilstein we emerge with 153 molecules that contain all 11 members of the reductive citric acid cycle. A small number of selection rules generates a very constrained subset, suggesting that this is the type of reaction model that will prove useful in the study of biogenesis. The model indicates that the metabolism shown in the universal chart of pathways may be central to the origin of life, is emergent from organic chemistry, and may be unique.

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