CRC 235 Emergence of Life

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Mineral-mediated carbohydrate synthesis by mechanical forces in a primordial geochemical setting

M. Haas et. al. 2020 Communications Chemistry


Maren Haas, Saskia Lamour, Sarah Babette Christ and Oliver Trapp

Communications Chemistry


The formation of carbohydrates represents an essential step to provide building blocks and asource of chemical energy in several models for the emergence of life. Formaldehyde, gly-colaldehyde and a basic catalyst are the initial components forming a variety of sugarmolecules in the cascade-type multi-step formose reaction. While numerous side reactionsand even deterioration can be observed in aqueous media, selective prebiotic sugar formationis feasible in solid-state, mechanochemical reactions and might have occurred in earlygeochemistry. However, the precise role of different basic catalysts and the influence of theatmospheric conditions in the solid-state formose reaction remain unknown. Here we show,that in a primordial scenario the mechanochemical formose reaction is capable to formmonosaccharides with a broad variety of mineral classes as catalysts with only minuteamounts of side products such as lactic acid or methanol, independent of the atmosphericconditions. The results give insight into recentfindings of formose sugars on meteorites andoffer a water-free and robust pathway for monosaccharides independent of the externalconditions both for the early Earth or an extra-terrestrial setting.

LMU Press Release: In the beginning, there was sugar