Carbon and nitrogen are essential to all living organisms, owing to their abundance and remarkable characteristics when participating in chemical bonds. Their essentiality dates back to the very origin of life, where current theories hypothesize either a prebiotic abundance of organic compounds rich in carbon and nitrogen, or an ability to assimilate them inorganically through abiotic reactions that might have been catalyzed on ancient mineral surfaces. This chapter details the core reactions essential to the assimilation of these elements in biologically useful forms—the so-called fixation of carbon and nitrogen—focusing on recent literature and insights from comparative genomics and phylogenetics.

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