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Thermodynamics of chemical processes relevant to the origin of life can be accurately assessed by quantum chemical calculations. By comparing the energetics of a wide scale of synthetic reactions that could lead to nucleobases, nucleotides and oligonucleotides in a primordial environment, we have formulated an energetic concept for the origin of life. This concept divides the pathway leading to the first genetic molecules into an energy- and a structure-driven part. We suggest that cyclic nucleotides may represent the connection between the two parts. We propose that polymerization of 3′,5′ cyclic GMP could serve as a source of the first oligonucleotides as well as the core of ancient metabolic cycles operating on the early Earth, thus reconciling the metabolism-first and genetics-first views of the origin of life.

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