Seminar: HP sauce on everything: Multiple roles of hydrogen peroxide in mediating the origin of life (Dr. Rowena Ball)

Thursday, 26 September 2019 - 12:00pm – Thursday, 26 September 2019 - 1:00pm  |  ChemSci M10


Living cells make and break hydrogen peroxide and evidence is mounting that its relationship with living organisms is vital and multi-faceted, after a dark age during which it was reviled as a toxic cell vandal and saboteur of gene transcription fidelity. But non-biogenic hydrogen peroxide was present on Earth before photosynthetic cells appeared, and primitive anaerobes must have come to some arrangement with it. And what of its role with respect to pre- and proto-cellular life, the putative RNA world?

The HP crucible hypothesis holds that life began in a localised environment that was perfused with a flow of hydrogen peroxide from a sustained external source, which powered and mediated molecular evolution and the RNA world. In this talk I shall review and consolidate recent evidence for its multiple roles in chemical evolution towards the first living systems: i) Its redox reactions can provide a fluctuating periodic drive, yielding “the fundamental equation of life” as an anti- Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution of output thermal fluctuations, thus placing stochasticity at centre stage in the origin of life drama. ii) It may act as an agent of molecular evolution and mediator of homochirality, iii) Involvement at the dawn of life can shed light on its hero and villain roles in cell function, and on the singularity of life on Earth. The HP crucible hypothesis is based on well-known chemistry and physics and is testable in the laboratory.