Journal of Molecular Modeling

, 25:335 | Cite as

Hemiaminal route for the formation of interstellar glycine: a computational study

  • Zanele P. Nhlabatsi
  • Priya Bhasi
  • Sanyasi SithaEmail author
Original Paper


Calculations related to two simple two-step paths (path-I: \( {\mathrm{H}}_2\mathrm{C}=\mathrm{O}+\mathrm{N}{\mathrm{H}}_3\to \upalpha -\mathrm{hydroxy}\ \mathrm{amine}\ \overset{+\mathrm{CO}}{\to }\ \mathrm{glycine}, \) path-II: \( {\mathrm{H}}_2\mathrm{C}=\mathrm{NH}+{\mathrm{H}}_2\mathrm{O}\to \upalpha -\mathrm{hydroxy}\ \mathrm{amine}\ \overset{+\mathrm{CO}}{\to }\ \mathrm{glycine} \)) for the formation of glycine have been discussed. Calculations show that at interstellar conditions these two paths are feasible only in hot cores, not in the cold interstellar clouds (cold core formation is possible only if CH2 = NH, H2O (excess) and CO of path-II, react in a concerted manner). For the laboratory synthesis of glycine, the possibility suggested is via path-I and the reaction being carried out as controlled temperature one-pot synthesis. This study can also be extended to other α-amino acids and possibly enantiomeric excess can be expected. We think this work will not only be able to enrich our future understanding about the formation of amino acids in interstellar medium but also be able to suggest alternative paths for laboratory synthesis of amino acids using either Strecker’s or Miller’s ingredients.

Graphical abstract

Using computational calculations, two different reaction paths which go through a hemiaminal (α-hydroxyamine) intermediate have been proposed. It has been proposed that the reaction \( {\mathrm{H}}_2\mathrm{C}=\mathrm{O}+\mathrm{N}{\mathrm{H}}_3\to \upalpha -\mathrm{hydroxyamine}\ \overset{+\mathrm{CO}}{\to }\ \mathrm{glycine}, \) is a thermodynamically favorable reaction path in the laboratory conditions, if carried out as a controlled temperature one-pot synthesis. On the hand, it has been argued that the reaction\( {\mathrm{H}}_2\mathrm{C}=\mathrm{NH}+{\mathrm{H}}_2\mathrm{O}\to \upalpha -\mathrm{hydroxy}\ \mathrm{amine}\ \overset{+\mathrm{CO}}{\to }\ \mathrm{glycine} \) is a feasible reaction path in the interstellar conditions, if it proceeds not via the hemiaminal route, rather in a concerted reaction path.


Glycine Interstellar medium ISM CH2=NH HCHO NH3 CO H2



The authors like to thank University of Johannesburg for support. ZPN and PB carried out this work while doing their PhD works at University of Johannesburg.

Supplementary material

894_2019_4224_MOESM1_ESM.docx (22 kb)
ESM 1(DOCX 22 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical Sciences (APK Campus)University of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

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