2015 Beckman Symposium   

Julia Nelson

Presentation Date:

Julia Nelson

Plausible Prebiotic Synthesis of alpha-keto Acids

Furman University


The continuity hypothesis states that the early prebiotic pathways for the synthesis of amino acids, alpha-keto acids, and nucleobases share many mechanistic similarities to the fundamental enzyme-mediated syntheses of modern biochemistry. These three molecule types are key derivatives and intermediates in many biological systems, including the Citric Acid Cycle and glycolysis. Specifically, my research focuses on the base-catalyzed hydrolysis of the Cys-Gly diketopiperazine. Both HPLC and 1HNMR data indicate that this hydrolysis produces the alpha-keto acids, glyoxylate and pyruvate, both of which are key synthetic precursors to other biologically significant molecules. Additional data shows that the base-catalyzed aldol condensation of pyruvate and glyoxylate forms a dimer which readily decarboxylates in the presence of hydrogen peroxide to malate, another crucial metabolic intermediate. Our research aims to elucidate several plausible prebiotic mechanisms to these compounds that will further our knowledge of possible environments that would be suitable for the origin of life.

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