A transition from geochemistry to biochemistry has been considered as a necessary step towards the emergence of primordial life. Nevertheless, how did this transition occur is still elusive. The chemistry underlying this transition is likely not a single event, but involves many levels of creation and reconstruction, finally reaching the molecular, structural, and functional buildup of complexity. Among them, one apparent question is: how the biochemical catalytic system emerged from the mineral-based geochemical system? Inspired by the metal–ligand structures in metalloenzymes, many researchers have proposed that transition metal sulfide minerals could have served as structural analogs of metalloenzymes for catalyzing prebiotic redox conversions. This assumption has been tested and verified to some extent by several studies, which focused on using Earth-abundant transition metal sulfides as catalysts for multi-electron C and N conversions. The progress in this field will be introduced, with a focus on the CO2 fixation and ammonia synthesis from nitrate/nitrite reduction and N2 reduction. Recently developed methods for screening effective mineral catalysts were also reviewed.
Part of the book: Mineralogy