Mineral surface chemistry control for origin of prebiotic peptides

Nat Commun. 2017 Dec 11;8(1):2033. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-02248-y.


Some seventy years ago, John Desmond Bernal proposed a role for clays in the origin of life. While much research has since been dedicated to the study of silicate clays, layered double hydroxides, believed to be common on the early Earth, have received only limited attention. Here we examine the role that layered hydroxides could have played in prebiotic peptide formation. We demonstrate how these minerals can concentrate, align and act as adsorption templates for amino acids, and during wetting-drying cycles, promote peptide bond formation. This enables us to propose a testable mechanism for the growth of peptides at layered double hydroxide interfaces in an early Earth environment. Our results provide insights into the potential role of mineral surfaces in mimicking aspects of biochemical reaction pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum Silicates / chemistry
  • Amino Acids / chemistry
  • Clay
  • Earth, Planet
  • Hydroxides / chemistry*
  • Minerals / chemistry*
  • Origin of Life*
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Surface Properties


  • Aluminum Silicates
  • Amino Acids
  • Hydroxides
  • Minerals
  • Peptides
  • hydroxide ion
  • Clay