Experiments on the abiotic amplification of optical activity

William A. Bonner*, Neal E. Blair, Frederick M. Dirbas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Our earlier experiments are briefly reviewed, involving the abiotic generation of optical activity by exposure of DL-amino acids to various "chiral" physical forces. The enantiomeric enrichments so obtained were low, however, and additional experiments were undertaken with the objective of abiotically enhancing such small enantiomeric excesses. D≠L Mixtures of leucine N-carboxy anhydride gave enantiomerically enriched polymers on partial polymerization, while valine NCA mixtures behaved oppositely. Leucine polymers were also found to hydrolyze stereoselectively, providing for additional enantiomenic enhancement. A repetitive sequence of partial polymerization-hydrolysis steps is suggested as a possible mechanism for the abiotic genesis of optically enriched polypeptides on the primitive Earth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-134
Number of pages16
JournalOrigins of Life
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 1 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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