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Sydow, Constanze; Seiband, Christiane; Siegle, Alexander F.; Trapp, Oliver (2022): Phosphorylation in liquid sulfur dioxide under prebiotically plausible conditions. Communications Chemistry, 5 (1). ISSN 2399-3669

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In nature, organophosphates provide key functions such as information storage and transport, structural tasks, and energy transfer. Since condensations are unfavourable in water and nucleophilic attack at phosphate is kinetically inhibited, various abiogenesis hypotheses for the formation of organophosphate are discussed. Recently, the application of phosphites as phosphorylation agent showed promising results. However, elevated temperatures and additional reaction steps are required to obtain organophosphates. Here we show that in liquid sulfur dioxide, which acts as solvent and oxidant, efficient organophosphate formation is enabled. Phosphorous acid yields up to 32.6% 5′ nucleoside monophosphate, 3.6% 5′ nucleoside diphosphate, and the formation of nucleoside triphosphates and dinucleotides in a single reaction step at room temperature. In addition to the phosphorylation of organic compounds, we observed diserine formation. Thus, we suggest volcanic environments as reaction sites for biopolymer formation on Early Earth. Because of the simple recyclability of sulfur dioxide, the reaction is also interesting for synthesis chemistry.

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