Origin of the L-Homochirality of Amino-Acids in the Proteins of Living Organisms

Part of the Topics in Molecular Organization and Engineering book series (MOOE, volume 4)


Symmetry is equilibrium, appeasement, and, in the limit, death. By contrast, the breaking of the symmetry generates motion, animates forms, sprouts Life. Among the many examples which can be given to illustrate this law of Nature, the most typical is certainly that of natural substances. As early as the last century, the attention of chemists had been drawn to the fact that most of the substances from plants possess a rotatory power (oil of turpentine, solutions of sugar, of camphor, etc.). Around 1900, Fischer showed that the majority of the natural sugars belong to the same stereochemical series (D-series). His student, Freudenberg (1924) was one of the first to realize that the amino acids of proteins belong to L-series (Figure 1). Moreover, certain D-amino acids have subsequently been found in some organisms (bacteria, annelids, insects, octopus) as constituents of specific molecules (e.g. luciferine) but without being susceptible to incorporation in proteins [1]. More recently, at last, the discovery that, after death, amino acids of the collagen of bones progressively racemize [2, 3] has reinforced the certainty of the strong connection which exists between chiral dissymmetry and Life.


Adsorption Energy Rotatory Power Amplification Mechanism Enantiomeric Form Natural Sugar 
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© Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Julg
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Chimie ThéoriqueUniversité de ProvenceMarseilleFrance

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