International Journal of Astrobiology

Did silicon aid in the establishment of the first bacterium?

M. Wainwright a1, K. Al-Wajeeh a1, N.C. Wickramasinghe a2 and J.V. Narlikar a3
a1 Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK
a2 Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology, Cardiff University, 2 North Road, Cardiff CF10 3DW, UK
a3 Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Post Bag 4, Ganshkhind, Pune, 411 007, India

Article author query
wainwright m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
al-wajeeh k   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
wickramasinghe n   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
narlikar j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Silicic acid increased numbers of both aerobic and facultatively anaerobic bacteria in ultrapure water incubated under strict oligotrophic conditions; soil extracts acted as the bacterial inoculum. The results are discussed in relation to the possibility that silicic acid, produced by the hydrolysis of silicates on the early Earth, could have stimulated the growth of the first bacterium, thereby allowing it to become established in the then prevailing conditions (presumed to be oligotrophic).

(Received April 16 2003)
(Accepted July 1 2003)

Key Words: bacterial evolution; origin of life; panspermia; silicon microbiology.