Article: published in Nature Communications by Fernando Martín and Sergio Díaz-Tendero, members of the Chemistry Department and IFIMAC researchers.
The formation of peptide bonds by energetic processing of amino acids is an important step towards the formation of biologically relevant molecules. As amino acids are present in space, scenarios have been developed to identify the roots of life on Earth, either by processes occurring in outer space or on Earth itself. We study the formation of peptide bonds in single collisions of low-energy He2+ ions (α-particles) with loosely bound clusters of β-alanine molecules at impact energies typical for solar wind. Experimental fragmentation mass spectra produced by collisions are compared with results of molecular dynamics simulations and an exhaustive exploration of potential energy surfaces. We show that peptide bonds are efficiently formed by water molecule emission, leading to the formation of up to tetrapeptide. The present results show that a plausible route to polypeptides formation in space is the collision of energetic ions with small clusters of amino acids. [Full article]