Kamila B. Muchowska is a CNRS research scientist at the Institut de Science et d’Ingénierie Supramoléculaires (University of Strasbourg & CNRS), associated with the Laboratory of Chemical Catalysis. She obtained her MSc Eng degree in chemical technology from the Gdansk University of Technology (Poland) in 2011. In 2015, she was awarded her PhD in physical organic chemistry (Prof. Scott Cockroft, University of Edinburgh, UK). After 3.5 years as a postdoctoral researcher with Prof. Joseph Moran, where she studied metabolism-like reactions potentially related to the origin of life on Earth, she joined the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) in 2019 in the molecular biology/biochemistry section. Her research interests include prebiotic chemistry, evolutionary (bio)chemistry and complex systems.
Non-enzymatic metabolic reactions and life’s origins
Life is governed by an intricate network of chemical reactions that make up metabolism. How the biochemistry of life as we know it came to be is studied by prebiotic chemistry. Lots of efforts in this area have focused on life’s building blocks, often obtained in multi-step chemical syntheses . However, focusing only on the molecular building blocks, rather than the processes that produce them, may have caused us to overlook what might be a fundamental feature of life. Why does life use the molecules, reactions, pathways, and overall organization that it does? In this talk, I will present how the chemistry that led to life could have begun as a primitive non-enzymatic version of the biochemistry we know today, initially promoted by naturally occurring catalysts, for example geologically abundant iron-rich minerals and salts . If it existed, such a reaction network would have built up and broken down life’s chemical building blocks in much the same way as the pathways that do it today. The knowledge of processes and mechanisms that may have led to the emergence of life’s core biochemical machinery is of paramount importance not only to the origins studies of life on Earth, but also to the search for life-like systems beyond our planet.
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