A Mechanism for the Prebiotic Emergence of Proteins

The Role of Proton Gradient and High Temperature in the Polymerization of Amino Acids Embedded in Bilayers
  • H. P. De Vladar
  • R. Cipriani
  • B. Scharifker
  • J. Bubis
Part of the Cellular Origin and Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology book series (COLE, volume 7)


The first living organisms were not necessarily the result of the assembly of fully structured biochemical mechanisms involving macromolecules, but at least some life-related processes, as we know them today, probably appeared alongside the structural integration and early evolution of these proto-organisms. Along these ideas, we consider that spatial compartmentalization and protein functionality are tightly related in their origin. A possible scenario of this relationship is the early polymerization of amino acids (AA) embedded in amphiphilic membranes. The resulting membrane-embedded proto-proteins could have played an important role modulating the transport of elements or ions between the internal compartment and the environment. This scenario is congruent with selectivity arguments of AA (Hitz & DeLuisi, 2000) (i.e., 20 out of nearly 70 originally available (Croning & Chang, 1993; Engel & Nagy, 1982)) and their homochirality (Hitz et al., 2001). Other mechanisms of peptide bond formation, such as alumina-catalyzed reactions (Bujdak & Rode, 2002), polymerization on clay surfaces (Bujdak & Rode, 1996) and polymerization mediated by thioesters (De Duve, 1996), can also lead to this scenario.


Peptide Bond Formation Internal Compartment Polyamino Acid Murchison Meteorite Spatial Compartmentalization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Blatz, P.L. and Tobolsky, T.B. (1945) Note on the Kinetics of Systems Manifesting Simultaneous Polymerization Phenomena, J. Phys. Chem. 49, 77–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bujdak, J. and Rode, B.M. (2002) Preferential amino acid sequences in alumina-catalyzed peptide bond formation, J. Inorg. Biochem. 90, 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bujdak, J. and Rode, B.M. (1996) The Effect of Smectite Composition on the Catalysis of Peptide Bond Formation, J. Mol. Evol. 43, 326–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cronin, J.R. and Chang, S. (1993) Organic matter in meteorites: molecular and isotopic analyses of the Murchison meteorite, In: M. Greenberg, C. X. Mendoza-Gomez, and V. Pirronello (eds.) The Chemistry of Life’s Origins, Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 209–258.Google Scholar
  5. De Duve, C. (1996) Vital Dust, Basic Books, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  6. De Groot, S.R. (1968) Thermodynamics of Irreversible Processes, North-Holland Publishing Co., Amsterdam, Holland.Google Scholar
  7. Engel, M.H. and Nagy, B. (1982) Distribution and enantiomeric composition of amino acids in the Murchinson meteorite, Nature 296, 837–840.Google Scholar
  8. Hanggi, P., Talkner, P. and Borkovec, M. (1990) Reaction-rate theory: fifty years after Kramers, Rev. Mod. Phys. 62, 251–342.MathSciNetADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hitz, T., Blocher, M., Walde, P., and Luisi, P.L. (2001) Stereoselectivity Aspects in the Condensation of Racemic NCA-Amino Acids in the Presence and Absence of Liposomes, Macromolecules 34, 2443–2449.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hitz, T. and Luisi, P.L. (2000) Liposome-Assisted Selective Polycondensation of α-Amino Acids and Peptides, Biopolymers 55, 381–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kasting, J.F. (1993) Earth’s Early Atmosphere, Science 259, 920–926.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Miller, S.L. and Lazcano, A. (1995) The origin of life—did it occur at high temperatures? J. Mol. Evol. 41, 689–692.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Nicolis, G. and Prigogine, I. (1977) Self-Organization in Nonequilibrium Systems: From Dissipative Structures to Order through Fluctuations, Wiley-Interscience, New York, USA.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  14. Rohlfing, D.L., (1976) Thermal Polyamino Acids: Synthesis at Less Than 100 °C, Science 193, 68–70.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. P. De Vladar
    • 1
  • R. Cipriani
    • 2
  • B. Scharifker
    • 3
  • J. Bubis
    • 4
  1. 1.Centro de BiotecnologíaFundación Instituto de Estudios AvanzadosCaracasVenezuela
  2. 2.Departamento de Estudios AmbientalesUniversidad Simón BolívarCaracas-VenezuelaVenezuela
  3. 3.Departamento de QuímicaUniversidad Simón BolívarCaracas-VenezuelaVenezuela
  4. 4.Departamento de Biología CelularUniversidad Simón BolívarCaracas-VenezuelaVenezuela

Personalised recommendations