Silica Metal Oxide Vesicles Catalyze Comprehensive Prebiotic Chemistry

Silica Metal Oxide Vesicles Catalyze Comprehensive Prebiotic Chemistry It has recently been demonstrated that mineral self‐assembled structures catalyzing prebiotic chemical reactions may form in natural waters derived from serpentinization, a geological process widespread in the early stages of Earth‐like planets. We have synthesized self‐assembled membranes by mixing microdrops of metal solutions with alkaline silicate solutions in the presence of formamide (NH2CHO), a single‐carbon molecule, at 80 °C. We found that these bilayer membranes, made of amorphous silica and metal oxide/hydroxide nanocrystals, catalyze the condensation of formamide, yielding the four nucleobases of RNA, three amino acids and, several carboxylic acids in a single‐pot experiment. Besides manganese, iron and magnesium, two abundant elements in the earliest Earth crust that are key in serpentinization reactions, are enough to produce all these biochemical compounds. These results suggest that the transition from inorganic geochemistry to prebiotic organic chemistry is common on a universal scale and, most probably, occurred earlier than ever thought for our planet. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Chemistry - A European Journal Wiley

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
© 2018 Wiley‐VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
ISSN
0947-6539
eISSN
1521-3765
D.O.I.
10.1002/chem.201706162
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

It has recently been demonstrated that mineral self‐assembled structures catalyzing prebiotic chemical reactions may form in natural waters derived from serpentinization, a geological process widespread in the early stages of Earth‐like planets. We have synthesized self‐assembled membranes by mixing microdrops of metal solutions with alkaline silicate solutions in the presence of formamide (NH2CHO), a single‐carbon molecule, at 80 °C. We found that these bilayer membranes, made of amorphous silica and metal oxide/hydroxide nanocrystals, catalyze the condensation of formamide, yielding the four nucleobases of RNA, three amino acids and, several carboxylic acids in a single‐pot experiment. Besides manganese, iron and magnesium, two abundant elements in the earliest Earth crust that are key in serpentinization reactions, are enough to produce all these biochemical compounds. These results suggest that the transition from inorganic geochemistry to prebiotic organic chemistry is common on a universal scale and, most probably, occurred earlier than ever thought for our planet.

Journal

Chemistry - A European JournalWiley

Published: Jan 7, 2018

Keywords: ; ; ; ;

References

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