Letter | Published:

Primordial origins of chirality


THE origin of optical asymmetry in relation to the origin of life has been extensively discussed1–4. One suggestion is that there is a connection between molecular asymmetry and the asymmetry of elementary particles produced by weak interactions. Various mechanisms have been proposed whereby the choice of one optical isomer could be influenced by longitudinally polarised (left handed) electrons from β decay5,6, but early experiments did not give any significant results7. Later, both positive8,9 and negative10–12 results have been obtained in a variety of experiments (differential decomposition of enantiomers bombarded by β-rays, spin-polarised positron and muon annihilation in enantiomers).

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  1. 1

    Ulbricht, T. L. V., in Comparative Biochemistry, 4 (edit. by Florkin, M., and Mason, H. S.), (Academic, New York, 1962).

  2. 2

    Bonner, W., in Exobiology (edit. by Ponnamperuma, C.) (North-Holland, New York, 1972).

  3. 3

    Thiemann, W., and Darge, W., Origin of Life, 5, 263 (1974).

  4. 4

    Ulbricht, T. L. V., Origin of Life (in the press).

  5. 5

    Vester, F., Ulbricht, T. L. V., and Krauch, H., Naturwissenschaften, 46, 68 (1959).

  6. 6

    Ulbricht, T. L. V., Q. Rev. Biol., 13, 48 (1959).

  7. 7

    Ulbricht, T. L. V., and Vester, F., Tetrahedron, 18, 629 (1962).

  8. 8

    Garay, A. S., Nature, 219, 338 (1968).

  9. 9

    Garay, A. S., Keszthelyi, L., and Hrasko, P., Nature, 250, 332 (1974).

  10. 10

    Gol'danskii, V. I., and Khrapov, V. V., Soviet Phys. JETP, 16, 582 (1963).

  11. 11

    Bernstein, W., Lemmon, R., and Calvin, M., in Molecular Evolution (edit. by Rohlfing, L., and Oparin, A. I.), (Plenum, New York, 1972).

  12. 12

    Lemmon, R. M., et al., Nature, 252, 692 (1974).

  13. 13

    Eliel, E. L., Stereochemistry of Carbon Compounds, 44–45 (McGraw-HilI, NewYork, 1962).

  14. 14

    Streffer, C., Strahlen Biochemie (Springer, Berlin, 1969).

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