Metabolism is the engine of modern life, providing the energy which makes all the processes of life possible, and the chemistry of the modern metabolism is remarkably similar no matter where you look. This chemical similarity suggests a very ancient origin of metabolism, an origin prior to multicellular life, and maybe even prior to life itself. In this paper we show how a combination of two simple molecules, glyoxylate and cyanide, can produce tartrate, and by doing so open a pathway to metabolic chemistry prior to the emergence of life.

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