Morowitz, H. J.,Srinivasan, V.,Smith, E.

The assumption that all biological catalysts are either proteins or ribozymes leads to an outstanding enigma of biogenesis-how to determine the synthetic pathways to the monomers for the efficient formation of catalytic macromolecules in the absence of any such macro-molecules. The last 60 years have witnessed chemists developing an understanding of organocatalysis and ligand field theory, both of which give demonstrable low-molecular-weight catalysts. We assume that transition-metal ligand complexes are likely to have occurred in the deep ocean trenches by the combination of naturally occurring oceanic metals and ligands synthesized from the emergent CO2, H-2, NH3, H2S, and H3PO4. We are now in a position to investigate experimentally the metal-ligand complexes, their catalytic function, and the reaction networks that could have played a role in the development of metabolism and life itself.