Earth Sciences, Geochemistry & Petrology; prebiotic synthesis; phosphorylation; origin of life; deep eutectic solvents; formamide; mineral catalysis
Phosphorylation reactions of glycerol were studied using different inorganic phosphates such as sodium phosphate, trimetaphosphate (a condensed phosphate), and struvite. The reactions were carried out in two non-aqueous solvents: formamide and a eutectic solvent consisting of choline chloride and glycerol in a ratio of 1:2.5. The glycerol reacted in formamide and in the eutectic solvent with phosphate to yield its phosphorylated derivatives in the presence of silicates such as quartz sand and kaolinite clay. The reactions were carried out by heating glycerol with a phosphate source at 85 °C for one week and were analyzed by 31P nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and mass spectrometry (MS). The yield of the phosphorylated glycerol was improved by the presence of silicates, and reached 90% in some experiments. Our findings further support the proposal that non-aqueous solvents are advantageous for the prebiotic synthesis of biomolecules, and suggest that silicates may have aided in the formation of organophosphates on the prebiotic earth.