Cooperative formation of porous silica and peptides on the prebiotic Earth

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6 Scopus citations


Modern technology has perfected the synthesis of catalysts such as zeolites and mesoporous silicas using organic structure directing agents (SDA) and their industrial use to catalyze a large variety of organic reactions within their pores. We suggest that early in prebiotic evolution, synergistic interplay arose between organic species in aqueous solution and silica formed from rocks by dynamic dissolution-recrystallization. The natural organics, for example, amino acids, small peptides, and fatty acids, acted as SDA for assembly of functional porous silica structures that induced further polymerization of amino acids and peptides, as well as other organic reactions. Positive feedback between synthesis and catalysis in the silica-organic system may have accelerated the early stages of abiotic evolution by increasing the formation of polymerized species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021117118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 12 2021


  • Peptide synthesis
  • Prebiotic chemistry
  • Silica
  • Zeolites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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