Researchers have discovered a potential path for the formation of prebiotic peptides on the ancient Earth that could be relevant to the origins of life. The study focuses on a model prebiotic reaction for the formation of the amino acids, alanine and glycine. Silica was introduced to aqueous mixtures of lactic acid, and the mixtures were then dried. This led to the production of alanine and glycine oligomers in films. The study details the process by which alanine and glycine are produced in the reaction, and how the process is altered as conditions such as temperature vary. The results highlight the potential role of minerals in prebiotic chemistry on Earth.

The study, “A Possible Path to Prebiotic Peptides Involving Silica and Hydroxy Acid‐Mediated Amide Bond Formation,” was published in the journal ChemBioChem. The work was performed at the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution (CCE) at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. The CCE is a collaborative program supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the NASA Astrobiology Program.