Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 419–424 | Cite as

Chiral symmetry breaking during the self-assembly of monolayers from achiral purine molecules

  • Stephen J. Sowerby
  • Wolfgang M. Heckl
  • George B. Petersen


Scanning tunneling microscopy was used to investigate the structure of the two-dimensional adsorbate formed by molecular self-assembly of the purine base, adenine, on the surfaces of the naturally occurring mineral molybdenite and the synthetic crystal highly oriented pyrolytic graphite. Although formed from adenine, which is achiral, the observed adsorbate surface structures were enantiomorphic on molybdenite. This phenomenon suggests a mechanism for the introduction of a localized chiral symmetry break by the spontaneous crystallization of these prebiotically available molecules on inorganic surfaces and may have some role in the origin of biomolecular optical asymmetry. The possibility that purine-pyrimidine arrays assembled on naturally occurring mineral surfaces might act as possible templates for biomolecular assembly is discussed.

Key words

Chiral symmetry breaking Molecular self-assembly Origin of life Purine Bases Scanning tunneling microscopy Two-dimensional arrays 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen J. Sowerby
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wolfgang M. Heckl
    • 3
  • George B. Petersen
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.Centre for Gene ResearchUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  3. 3.Ludwig Maximilians Universität MünchenInstitut für KristallographieMunichGermany

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