Life's utilization of B vitamins on early Earth

Geobiology. 2017 Jan;15(1):3-18. doi: 10.1111/gbi.12202. Epub 2016 Jul 31.


Coenzymes are essential across all domains of life. B vitamins (B1 -thiamin, B2 -riboflavin, B3 -niacin, B5 -pantothenate, B6 -pyridoxine, B7 -biotin, and B12 -cobalamin) represent the largest class of coenzymes, which participate in a diverse set of reactions including C1 -rearrangements, DNA repair, electron transfer, and fatty acid synthesis. B vitamin structures range from simple to complex heterocycles, yet, despite this complexity, multiple lines of evidence exist for their ancient origins including abiotic synthesis under putative early Earth conditions and/or meteorite transport. Thus, some of these critical coenzymes likely preceded life on Earth. Some modern organisms can synthesize their own B vitamins de novo while others must either scavenge them from the environment or establish a symbiotic relationship with a B vitamin producer. B vitamin requirements are widespread in some of the most ancient metabolisms including all six carbon fixation pathways, sulfate reduction, sulfur disproportionation, methanogenesis, acetogenesis, and photosynthesis. Understanding modern metabolic B vitamin requirements is critical for understanding the evolutionary conditions of ancient metabolisms as well as the biogeochemical cycling of critical elements such as S, C, and O.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Coenzymes / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways*
  • Origin of Life
  • Vitamin B Complex / metabolism*


  • Coenzymes
  • Vitamin B Complex