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J Mol Evol. 1998 Nov;47(5):501-7.

Mineral catalysis of a potentially prebiotic aldol condensation.

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Evolutionary Biology Research Group, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
U CA San Diego, La Jolla


Minerals may have played a significant role in chemical evolution. In the course of investigating the chemistry of phosphonoacetaldehyde (PAL), an analogue of glycolaldehyde phosphate, we have observed a striking case of catalysis by the layered hydroxide mineral hydrotalcite ([Mg2Al(OH)6][Cl.nH2O]). In neutral or moderately basic aqueous solutions, PAL is unreactive even at a concentration of 0.1 M. In the presence of a large excess of NaOH (2 M), the compound undergoes aldol condensation to produce a dimer containing a C3-C4 double-bond. In dilute neutral solutions and in the presence of the mineral, however, condensation takes place rapidly, to produce a dimer which is almost exclusively the C2-C3 unsaturated product.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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