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Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2010;12(20):5285-94. doi: 10.1039/b923439j.

Deep-space glycine formation via Strecker-type reactions activated by ice water dust mantles. A computational approach.

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Dipartimento di Chimica IFM, NIS Centre of Excellence and INSTM (Materials and Technology National Consortium), UdR torino, Università di Torino, Via P. Giuria 7, 10125 Torino, Italy.


A Strecker-type synthesis of glycine by reacting NH(3), H(2)C=O and HCN in presence of ice water (H(2)O-ice) as a catalyst has been theoretically studied at B3LYP/6-31+G(d,p) level within a cluster approach in order to mimic reactions occurring in the interstellar and circumstellar medium (ICM). Results indicate that, despite the exoergonic character of the considered reactions occurring at the H(2)O-ice surface, the kinetics are slow due to relatively high electronic energy barriers (ΔU(0)(≠)=15-45 kcal mol(-1)). Reactions occurring within H(2)O-ice cavities, in which ice bulk effects have been modeled by assuming a dielectric continuum (ε=78), show energy barriers low enough to allow NH(2)CH(2)OH formation but not NH=CH2 (ΔU(0)(≠)= 2 and 21 kcal mol(-1), respectively) thus hindering the NH(2)CH(2)CN formation, i.e. the precursor of glycine, through Strecker channels. Moreover, hydrolysis of NH(2)CH(2)CN to give glycine is characterized by high electronic energy barriers (ΔU(0)(≠)=27-34 kcal mol(-1)) and cannot readily occur at cryogenic temperatures. Nevertheless, the facts that NH=CH(2) formation can readily be achieved through the radical-radical HCN+2H - NH−−>CH2 reaction [D. E. Woon, Astrophys. J., 2002, 571, L177-L180], and that present results indicate that the Strecker step of NH=CH(2)+HCN−−>NH(2)CH(2)CN exhibits a relative low energy barrier (ΔU(0)(≠)=8–9 kcal mol(-1)), suggest that a combination of these two mechanisms allows for the formation of NH(2)CH(2)CN in the ICM. These results strengthen the thesis that NH(2)CH(2)CN could have been formed and protected by icy dust particles, and then delivered through micro-bombardments onto the early Earth, leading to glycine formation upon contact with the primordial ocean.

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