Theoretical contributions

An introduction to the first stage of cellular evolution: the reinterpretation of biochemistry

(A fragment of the public presentation by Faustino Cordón of Part Two of the Treatise of Evolutionary Biology).

"... However, in the brief talk that I can give today it would be vain to claim to offer even a rough idea of the content of the Treatise that we are presenting. I will merely give you an outline of the development of our research over the past thirteen years, singling out some of the milestones that were achieved, which always involved the unexpected discovery of the meaning of a field of experimental knowledge".

The two thrilling subjects of Volume I of Part Two (The Origin and Nature of the Cell) involve, at least in their nascent state, an intrinsic difficulty. I will therefore pass over them and merely state that the order of ideas acquired in them seems to be effective for interpreting the specific data on the cellular metabolism, which we believe was the main achievement of the evolution of the first great cell type. Contrary to what could have been expected before we started, the study of the cell required seven years of hard work that resulted in the extensive Volume II. I will now present some of the advances made in the evolutionist study of the cellular metabolism.


Our preliminary belief was that the first cell must have emerged from an association of living beings of a sub-cellular level (globular proteins), which must have lived on remains of associations of individuals of this same level. This belief led us to postulate strongly that the metabolic sector that must have developed first -and that therefore should be studied first- was that of amino acids, which are the molecular constituents of globular proteins, and then, successively, the sector of fats and sugars, which must have been based on that of amino acids. All our subsequent analysis of the cellular metabolism in terms of both its direct agent (globular proteins with an enzymatic function) and the agent which, in turn, governs the associative activity of these proteins (the cell) has strongly ratified this initial postulate, subverting the order of exposition that tends to be followed by biochemistry texts.


We decided to study the metabolic transformations of the sector of amino acids systematically, following the order in which their degradation and synthesis were established in the metabolism of the first cell. To this end, we ordered these pathways according to the increasing number of types of coenzymes used by the globular proteins of the metabolic pathways that have an enzymatic function. This order was very enlightening and convincing because the amino acids and the use of coenzymes are reciprocally coordinated. It was later confirmed very satisfactorily by data of a very different and independent nature, namely, by the order in which the degradation pathways lead to the citric acid cycle, which in turn offers the possibility of understanding its process of emergence, which, from its establishment, became the irreplaceable nucleus of the cellular metabolism.


We achieved an understanding of the function that the cellular metabolism must have had in the primordial cell throughout its development. This function was fulfilled in a very extraordinary way: by degrading the amino acids of the environment and reconstructing them from molecules close to this state of maximum degradation. This fact made us conclude that in the primordial cell the cellular metabolism could not be at the service of the replenishment of the globular proteins of the cell; rather, its function must have been to form a molar concentration gradient capable of transmuting into the cellular action with a hydrodynamic effect that attracted nutrients and expelled residues, and to produce the reserves that were essential to ensure the continuity of this action. This was a basic concept for interpreting in concrete terms the primordial cell as a living being, as a focus of action and experience of the second biological level.


We analysed each metabolic transformation differentiated by biochemistry through an appropriate schema to distinguish the role played in it by the globular protein with an enzymatic function that governs it from the chemical role that corresponds to the genuine molecules involved in it (metabolites and coenzymes). This type of schema allows us to specify how metabolizing globular proteins govern elementary chemical reactions by applying their particular mode of action and experience. Apparently they move the unitary molecular fields, they counterpose them appropriately in space and they cause in them, in unison, coordinated movements of valence electrons such that, systematically, a chemical reaction (always necessarily exergonic) occurs. This forces us to revise the prevailing interpretation of the kinetics of enzymes, which reduces them to a simple molecule with a catalyst function.

This schema shows that each metabolic transformation depends on the one that precedes it and the one that follows it in its metabolic pathway. It also shows the strongly unitary character of the cellular metabolism, corresponding to its primordial role as the basis for the action of the cell unit. In fact, from the moment when they emerge until the moment when they disappear, all metabolites are always under the control of a globular protein, which establishes the supramolecular order, except in the very moment of the chemical reaction that the globular protein causes.


The schema designed to represent the metabolic transformation revealed a noteworthy characteristic of the cellular metabolism as a whole. It is observed that all globular proteins that follow each other on all the pathways of each metabolic sector transform all its metabolites in the same, homologous part of its molecules. The other part -which ends in carboxyl in the aliphatic amino acid sector, in coenzyme A in the fatty acid sector and in a phosphoryl in the sugar sector- therefore remains unalterable. This fact reflects the great coherence of the cellular metabolism and provides an interpretation of the way in which the enzymatic functions are differentiated during the phylogenic development of the cellular metabolism.


The order of ideas that we developed provides a reasonable explanation of how, in the course of the evolution of the primordial cell, the metabolizing proteins applied their action and experience to form a soma capable of producing an increasingly efficient cellular action, with its hydrodynamic effect, governed by the action and experience of the cell, which now had a cellular metabolism.


It was essential for our order of ideas to obtain a scientific model (based on the experimental data of the regulation of the cellular metabolism) of how the cell's individuality is realized as a focus of experience, i.e. how the associative activity of the globular proteins manages to transform into a perception the contrast between the real result obtained from the previous action and the expected result. In passing, I must say that, in the model, it is discovered that ATP is really used in the important function of the cellular signal of the above contrast.

Eighth and last

We have obtained the first precise idea of how the metabolism of the aliphatic amino acids developed in gradual steps during the evolution of the first cell, each step offering a selective advantage for the cell until it culminated in the citric acid cycle. As is shown, as a subsidiary condition of effectiveness, this involved the development of the respiratory chain with its ATPases and the coordinated synthesis and degradation of fatty acids. And finally, the way in which the sugar metabolism, which is essential for the differentiation of the following type of cell (the autotroph), was initiated from the amino acid metabolism..." Chomin Cunchillos, "The main stages of the cellular metabolism. An approximation to the study of the metabolism.".

..." At any rate, our team has opened a perspective of specific work over a period of at least 20 years, in which we will use the experimental data available to study the origin, from the preceding type, of each type of cell subsequent to the primordial cell: the autotrophic cell, the phagocyte, the associations of cells that form plants, the saprophyte, the sponge and the pre-animal association of cells. If these are carefully studied from an evolutionist perspective, they can reveal to us the nature of the animal and, ipso facto, of the human through its origin, in specific physical terms."

Evolutionist Treatise of Biology. Part Two. Volume II. Evolution of the cell. Evolution of the cell.

Faustino Cordón: Biólogo Evolucionista by Herederos de Faustino Cordón, licensed under a Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional License. Licencia de Creative Commons