Abiotic and biotic processes that drive carboxylation and decarboxylation reactions

Cody S. Sheik, H. James Cleaves, Kristin Johnson-Finn, Donato Giovannelli, Thomas L. Kieft, Dominic Papineau, Matthew O. Schrenk, Simone Tumiati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Carboxylation and decarboxylation are two fundamental classes of reactions that impact the cycling of carbon in and on Earth's crust. These reactions play important roles in both long-term (primarily abiotic) and short-term (primarily biotic) carbon cycling. Long-term cycling is important in the subsurface and at subduction zones where organic carbon is decomposed and outgassed or recycled back to the mantle. Short-term reactions are driven by biology and have the ability to rapidly convert CO2 to biomass and vice versa. For instance, carboxylation is a critical reaction in primary production and metabolic pathways like photosynthesis in which sunlight provides energy to drive carbon fixation, whereas decarboxylation is a critical reaction in metabolic pathways like respiration and the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Early life and prebiotic chemistry on Earth likely relied heavily upon the abiotic synthesis of carboxylic acids. Over time, life has diversified (de)carboxylation reactions and incorporated them into many facets of cellular metabolism. Here we present a broad overview of the importance of carboxylation and decarboxylation reactions from both abiotic and biotic perspectives to highlight the importance of these reactions and compounds to planetary evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-615
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Mineralogist
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 26 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston 2020.


  • A Deep Carbon Perspective
  • Decarboxylation
  • Earth in Five Reactions
  • biological carbon cycling
  • carboxylation
  • early Earth
  • subduction recycling


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