Silica, Alumina, and Clay-Catalyzed Alanine Peptide Bond Formation
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The peptide bond formation of alanine (ala), ala + glycine (gly), ala + diglycine (gly2), and ala + gly cyclic anhydride (cyc-gly2) in drying/wetting cycles at 80°C was studied. Silica, alumina, and representative smectites—montmorillonite and hectorite—were used as catalysts, and the dependence of reaction yields on the available amount of water in the reaction systems was evaluated. Silica and alumina catalyze the formation of oligopeptide mainly in temperature fluctuation experiments, whereas higher amounts of water in the reaction system support clay-catalyzed reactions. Silica and alumina are much more efficient for amino acid dimerization than clays. Whereas only 0.1% of ala oligomerized on hectorite and no reaction proceeded on montmorillonite, about 0.9 and 3.8% alanine converted into its dimer and cyclic anhydride on silica and alumina, respectively. Clay minerals, on the other hand, seem to more efficiently catalyze peptide chain elongation than amino acid dimerization. The reaction yields of ala-gly-gly and gly-gly-ala from ala + gly2 and ala + cyc-gly2 reached about 0.3% on montmorillonite and 1.0% on hectorite. The possible mechanisms of these reactions and the relevance of the results for prebiotic chemistry are discussed.
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