Researchers have provided new insight into a metabolic cycle used by many organisms on Earth, and which may have been important in ancient cells. The reverse tricarboxylic acid (rTCA) cycle has been studied as an example of a metabolic cycle that could have been important to early forms of life on the ancient Earth. It is a relatively simple cycle and, because it is found in diverse organisms across the tree of life, scientists have proposed that may have appeared early in life’s evolution. The new study used a technique known as the ‘exhaustive structure generation method,’ to examine organic compounds found in the cycle.

The study, “Computational exploration of the chemical structure space of possible reverse tricarboxylic acid cycle constituents,” was published in the journal Nature:Scientific Reports. The work was performed at the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution (CCE) at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. The CCE is a collaborative program supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the NASA Astrobiology Program.