Professor Naoki Watanabe's group at Hokkaido University has confirmed through experiments that optically active amino acids can be produced at a low temperature of -261 ° C.Amino acids are substances that are indispensable materials for proteins in life, but the process of their initial creation remained a mystery.It was thought that it was made on cryogenic particles in the dark nebula of the universe, but in this experiment we confirmed that amino acids were made in a similar environment.

From the press release

From the press release

 Even if amino acids are made of the same element, there are two types of substances called optical isomers, which are mirrored to each other, just like the right and left hands.Such substances are called optical activity and have the property of twisting light.Artificially creating optical isomers should often result in the same proportion of right-handed and left-handed forms, but for some reason organisms on Earth have only one amino acid.Furthermore, it is not well understood where the amino acids themselves are made and why they exist on Earth.Although various hypotheses have been considered, the reasons for them have not yet been clarified, and it has been regarded as one of the greatest mysteries related to the origin of life.

 When an amino acid called glycine, which has no optical activity, is reacted with a special hydrogen atom, it becomes optically active.However, it has been thought that this reaction only occurs in environments above -173 ° C.This is because thermal energy is needed to overcome the energy barrier.This time, I tried to cause this reaction at an extremely low temperature of -261 ° C.Then, a phenomenon called the tunnel effect, which slips through the energy wall, occurred and succeeded in giving glycine optical activity.

 This raises the possibility that the optical activity of amino acids was acquired in the dark nebula.However, it remains unclear why life has only one of the right-handed and left-handed types.In this research, we will approach the mystery of why there are only one-handed molecules in nature.

Source:[Hokkaido University] Elucidation of the production pathway of the first optically active amino acid in the universe (PDF)

Hokkaido University

Strong cooperation with industry and regions "Practical science unique to Hokkaido University" leads the world

The origin of Hokkaido University dates back to Sapporo Agricultural College, which was established in 1876.Throughout its long history, we have cultivated the basic principles of "frontier spirit," "cultivating internationality," "education for all," and "emphasis on practical studies."Based on this philosophy, he has a high level of academic background that is internationally accepted, and has accurate judgment and a leader […].

University Journal Online Editorial Department

This is the online editorial department of the university journal.
Articles are written by editorial staff who have a high level of knowledge and interest in universities and education.