This chapter provides a general background on the synthesis of chemical biomarkers and their association with key metabolic pathways in organisms, as related to differences in cellular structure and function across the three domains of life. It discusses photosynthesis, the dominant pathway by which biomass is synthesized. It also presents information about chemoautotrophic and microbial heterotrophic processes. The holistic view of biosynthetic pathways of chemical biomarkers provides a roadmap for other chapters in the book, where more specific details on chemical pathways are presented for each of the respective biomarker groups. While other organic geochemistry books have generally introduced the concepts of chemical biomarkers in the context of physical and chemical gradients found in natural ecosystems (e.g., anaerobic, aerobic), this book begins by examining biosynthetic pathways at the cellular level of differentiation.
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