[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 21-Apr-2010
[ | E-mail Share Share ]

Contact: Michael Bernstein
m_bernstein@acs.org
202-872-6042
American Chemical Society

'Ancestral Eve' crystal may explain origin of life's left-handedness

This release is available in Chinese.

IMAGE: Molecules of aspartic acid with a left-handed orientation, shown in crystal form, could be the "ancestral Eve " of all amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins -- in life...

Click here for more information.

Scientists are reporting discovery of what may be the "ancestral Eve" crystal that billions of years ago gave life on Earth its curious and exclusive preference for so-called left-handed amino acids. Those building blocks of proteins come in two forms left- and right-handed that mirror each other like a pair of hands. Their study, which may help resolve one of the most perplexing mysteries about the origin of life, is in ACS' Crystal Growth & Design, a bi-monthly journal.

Tu Lee and Yu Kun Lin point out that conditions on the primordial Earth held an equal chance of forming the same amounts of left-handed and right-handed amino acids. Nevertheless, when the first forms of life emerged more than 3 billion years ago, all the amino acids in the proteins had the left-handed configuration. That pattern continued right up to modern plants and animals.

The scientists used mixtures of both left- and right-handed aspartic acid (an amino acid) in laboratory experiments to see how temperature and other conditions affected formation of crystals of the material. They found that under conditions that could have existed on primitive Earth, left-handed aspartic acid crystals could have formed easily and on a large scale. "The aspartic acid crystal would then truly become a single mother crystal: an ancestral Eve for the whole left-handed population," the article notes.

###

ARTICLE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
"The Origin of Life and the Crystallization of Aspartic Acid in Water"

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE
http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/cg901219f

CONTACT:
Tu Lee, Ph.D.
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
National Central University
Taiwan, Republic of China
Phone: 886-3-422-7151, ext. 34204
Fax: 886-3-425-2296
Email: tulee@cc.ncu.edu.tw



[ Back to EurekAlert! ] [ | E-mail Share Share ]

 


AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.