Assemblies of free amino acids as possible prebiotic catalysts

A. Bar-Nun*, E. Kochavi, S. Bar-Nun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our understanding of how life emerged on Earth has much to do with speculations about the ways in which prebiotic catalysts could have been formed. Since enzymes, the contemporary biological catalysts, are polymers of amino acids, we looked at the possible activity of free amino acids as catalysts. In this study it is shown experimentally that mixtures of free amino acids exert catalytic activities of β-galactosidase, carbonic anhydrase, and catalase. We also observed different levels of catalytic activty of individual amino acids: some were more efficient than others. Apparently, assemblies of amino acids which were formed around substrate molecules through weak interactions, could, in principle, catalyze many prebiotic reactions. This might have been one step in the emergence of biological enzymes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-122
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Molecular Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1994


  • Free amino acids
  • Origin of life
  • Prebiotic catalysts


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