The oligomerization of amino acids is an essential process in the chemical evolution of proteins, which are precursors to life on Earth. Although some researchers have observed peptide formation on clay mineral surfaces, the mechanism of peptide bond formation on the clay mineral surface has not been clarified. In this study, the thermal behavior of glycine (Gly) adsorbed on montmorillonite was observed during heating experiments conducted at 150 °C for 336 h under dry, wet, and dry-wet conditions to clarify the mechanism. Approximately 13.9 % of the Gly monomers became peptides on montmorillonite under dry conditions, with diketopiperazine (cyclic dimer) being the main product. On the other hand, peptides were not synthesized in the absence of montmorillonite. Results of IR analysis showed that the Gly monomer was mainly adsorbed via hydrogen bonding between the positively charged amino groups and negatively charged surface sites (i.e., Lewis base sites) on the montmorillonite surface, indicating that the Lewis base site acts as a catalyst for peptide formation. In contrast, peptides were not detected on montmorillonite heated under wet conditions, since excess water shifted the equilibrium towards hydrolysis of the peptides. The presence of water is likely to control thermodynamic peptide production, and clay minerals, especially those with electrophilic defect sites, seem to act as a kinetic catalyst for the peptide formation reaction.
- Chemical evolution
- Peptide formation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Space and Planetary Science