Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Wet-dry Cycling Delays the Gelation of Hyperbranched Polyesters: Implications to the Origin of Life

Version 1 : Received: 25 April 2019 / Approved: 26 April 2019 / Online: 26 April 2019 (10:46:40 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.


In extant biology, biopolymers perform multiple crucial functions. The biopolymers are synthesized by enzyme-controlled biosystems that would not have been available at the earliest stages of chemical evolution and consist of correctly sequenced and/or linked monomers. Some of the abiotic “messy” polymers approximate some functions of biopolymers. Condensation polymers are an attractive search target for abiotic functional polymers since principal polymers of life are produced by condensation and since condensation allows for the accurate construction of high polymers. Herein the formation of hyperbranched polyesters that have been previously used in the construction of enzyme-like catalytic complexes is explored. The experimental setup compares between the branched polyesters prepared under mild continuous heating and the wet-dry cycle conditions. The results reveal that period wetting during which partial hydrolysis of the polyester occurs, helps control the chain growth and retards the gel transition. It is significant to the origin of life studies that environmental, prebiotically plausible conditions could achieve such control without enzymes or a skilled chemist. As expected in marginally controlled systems, the identification of each component of the heterogeneous system has proved challenging, but it is not crucial for drawing the conclusions.


hyperbranched polyester; functional polymer; chemical evolution; wet-dry cycle; gelation prevention; condensation polymer; origin of life


Chemistry and Materials Science, Polymers and Plastics

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