School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Hydrothermal vents and the origin of life

3 February 2010

A new paper by John Allen and colleagues Nick Lane (University College London) and Bill Martin (Institut für Botanik III Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf) recently published in BioEssays and reported in Science Daily, argues that early forms of life were created by the Earth’s chemical energy, from hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. This counters previous claims that life began in a ‘primordial soup’ of organic minerals before evolving out of the ocean. “Modern living cells have inherited the same size of proton gradient, and, crucially, the same orientation - positive outside and negative inside - as the inorganic vesicles from which they arose,” said John Allen.