We report here results from experiments and thermodynamic calculations that demonstrate a rapid, temperature-enhanced synthesis of oligopeptides from the condensation of aqueous glycine. Experiments were conducted in custom-made hydrothermal reactors, and organic compounds were characterized with ultraviolet-visible procedures. A comparison of peptide yields at 260??C with those obtained at more moderate temperatures (160??C) gives evidence of a significant (13 kJ ?? mol-1) exergonic shift. In contrast to previous hydrothermal studies, we demonstrate that peptide synthesis is favored in hydrothermal fluids and that rates of peptide hydrolysis are controlled by the stability of the parent amino acid, with a critical dependence on reactor surface composition. From our study, we predict that rapid recycling of product peptides from cool into near-supercritical fluids in mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal systems will enhance peptide chain elongation. It is anticipated that the abundant hydrothermal systems on early Earth could have provided a substantial source of biomolecules required for the origin of life. Astrobiology 9, 141-146. ?? 2009 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2009.
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Peptide synthesis in early earth hydrothermal systems