Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 333–346 | Cite as

Chiral Polymerization in Open Systems From Chiral-Selective Reaction Rates

  • Marcelo GleiserEmail author
  • Bradley J. Nelson
  • Sara Imari Walker
Models for Homochirality


We investigate the possibility that prebiotic homochirality can be achieved exclusively through chiral-selective reaction rate parameters without any other explicit mechanism for chiral bias. Specifically, we examine an open network of polymerization reactions, where the reaction rates can have chiral-selective values. The reactions are neither autocatalytic nor do they contain explicit enantiomeric cross-inhibition terms. We are thus investigating how rare a set of chiral-selective reaction rates needs to be in order to generate a reasonable amount of chiral bias. We quantify our results adopting a statistical approach: varying both the mean value and the rms dispersion of the relevant reaction rates, we show that moderate to high levels of chiral excess can be achieved with fairly small chiral bias, below 10%. Considering the various unknowns related to prebiotic chemical networks in early Earth and the dependence of reaction rates to environmental properties such as temperature and pressure variations, we argue that homochirality could have been achieved from moderate amounts of chiral selectivity in the reaction rates.


Prebiotic chemistry Chirality Exoplanets 



MG is supported in part by a National Science Foundation grant PHY-1068027. BJN is a Presidential Scholar at Dartmouth College. SIW gratefully acknowledges support from the NASA Astrobiology Institute through the NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship Program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcelo Gleiser
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bradley J. Nelson
    • 1
  • Sara Imari Walker
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Physics and AstronomyDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  2. 2.NASA Astrobiology InstituteMountain ViewUSA
  3. 3.BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in ScienceArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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