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Inverse Phototrophy: Crazy? You Tell Me

Presenter: Michael Wong, University of Washington
When: November 20, 2018 3PM PST

Life is quintessentially a disequilibrium process. In other words, the dissipation of free energy underpins life’s ability to perform the myriad other functions that we ascribe to the living state—homeostasis, autocatalysis, order, complexity, information storage, replication, learning, etc. The pathways that begin with the liberation of free energy and culminate in biological order are captured in the various metabolisms of life on Earth. However, it is far from guaranteed that life on Earth encompasses all possible ways that an organometallic system in aqueous solution can harness free energy to self-assemble, grow, and replicate. Here, we envision a new pathway called “inverse phototrophy,” in which life utilizes sunlight in an oxidant-starved environment to produce an in-house electron acceptor for metabolism.

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