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Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2004 Feb;34(1-2):93-110.

Spontaneous onset of homochirality in oligopeptide chains generated in the polymerization of N-carboxyanhydride amino acids in water.

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ETH Zürich, Universitätsstr. 6, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland.


This article is concerned with the spontaneous onset of homochiral oligopeptide sequences. We will show that the polymerization of hydrophobic NCA (N-carboxyanhydride = cyclic anhydride)-amino acid racemates (i.e. tryptophane, leucine and isoleucine) in aqueous solution yields oligopeptides that are characterized by a high degree of homochiral sequences. Furthermore we will show that quartz enhances efficiently the mole fraction of oligopeptides with homochiral sequence by selectively adsorbing the more stereoregular oligopeptides from an aqueous solution of oligo-D,L-leucine. We find in particular that the mole fraction of the adsorbed homochiral 7mers is 17 times larger than the mole fraction calculated for a theoretical, random process. Experimentally the stereoisomer distribution for each oligomer length can be determined by the use of enantio-labeling and LC-MS (Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry). Furthermore, if we start the polymerization with an enantiomeric excess (e.e.) of 20% of L-leucine (L-amino acid: D-amino acid = 6:4, molar ratio) we observe a chiral amplification in the enantiomeric homochiral oligopeptides. We think that such processes are relevant to the chemical evolution of single handedness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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