Spontaneous Mirror Symmetry Breaking from Recycling in Enantioselective Polymerization

  • David Hochberg
  • Celia Blanco
  • Michael StichEmail author
Part of the SEMA SIMAI Springer Series book series (SEMA SIMAI, volume 20)


A key challenge for origin of life research is understanding how the homochirality of extant biological systems may have emerged during the abiotic phase of chemical evolution. Living systems depend on bio-macromolecules made from chiral building blocks and a crucial question is the relationship of polymerization with the emergence of homochirality. We present a reaction scheme demonstrating how spontaneous mirror symmetry breaking (SMSB) can be achieved in enantioselective polymerization without chiral inhibition and without autocatalysis. The model is based on nucleated cooperative polymerization: nucleation, elongation, dissociation, fusion and fragmentation and monomer racemization. These are micro-reversible processes subject to constraints dictated by chemical thermodynamics. To maintain this closed system out of equilibrium, we model an external energy source which induces the irreversible breakage of the longest polymers in the system. Simulations reveal that SMSB can be achieved starting from the tiny intrinsic statistical fluctuations about the idealized mirror symmetric composition.



The research of CB, MS and DH is supported in part by the grant CTQ2013-47401-C2-2-P (MINECO). CB is an Otis Williams Postdoctoral Fellow in Bioengineering. MS and DH form part of the COST Action CM1304: Emergence and Evolution of Complex Chemical Systems.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Molecular EvolutionCentro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA)Torrejón de Ardoz, MadridSpain
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry and BiochemistryUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  3. 3.Non-linearity and Complexity Research Group, System Analytics Research Institute, School of Engineering and Applied ScienceAston UniversityBirminghamUK

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