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Living cells are able to harvest energy by coupling exergonic electron transfer between reducing and oxidising substrates to the generation of chemiosmotic potential. Whereas a wide variety of redox substrates is exploited by prokaryotes resulting in very diverse layouts of electron transfer chains, the ensemble of molecular architectures of enzymes and redox cofactors employed to construct these systems is stunningly small and uniform. An overview of prominent types of electron transfer chains and of their characteristic electrochemical parameters is presented. We propose that basic thermodynamic considerations are able to rationalise the global molecular make-up and functioning of these chemiosmotic systems. Arguments from palaeogeochemistry and molecular phylogeny are employed to discuss the evolutionary history leading from putative energy metabolisms in early life to the chemiosmotic diversity of extant organisms. Following the Occam's razor principle, we only considered for this purpose origin of life scenarios which are contiguous with extant life. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: The evolutionary aspects of bioenergetic systems. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Barbara Schoepp-Cothenet, Robert van Lis, Ariane Atteia, Frauke Baymann, Line Capowiez, Anne-Lise Ducluzeau, Simon Duval, Felix ten Brink, Michael J Russell, Wolfgang Nitschke. On the universal core of bioenergetics. Biochimica et biophysica acta. 2013 Feb;1827(2):79-93

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PMID: 22982447

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