From amino acid mixtures to peptides in liquid sulphur dioxide on early Earth
Fabian Sauer, Maren Haas, Constanze Sydow, Alexander F. Siegle, Christoph A. Lauer & Oliver Trapp
Nature Communications https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-27527-7
The formation of peptide bonds is one of the most important biochemical reaction steps. Without the development of structurally and catalytically active polymers, there would be no life on our planet. However, the formation of large, complex oligomer systems is prevented by the high thermodynamic barrier of peptide condensation in aqueous solution. Liquid sulphur dioxide proves to be a superior alternative for copper-catalyzed peptide condensations. Compared to water, amino acids are activated in sulphur dioxide, leading to the incorporation of all 20 proteinogenic amino acids into proteins. Strikingly, even extremely low initial reactant concentrations of only 50 mM are sufficient for extensive peptide formation, yielding up to 2.9% of dialanine in 7 days. The reactions carried out at room temperature and the successful use of the Hadean mineral covellite (CuS) as a catalyst, suggest a volcanic environment for the formation of the peptide world on early Earth.