Thursday, May 14, 2009

reasons for asymmetry

There have been several books recently on the quest for reasons why life is made up of D sugars and L amino acids and ignores the mirror image versions of these molecules, which are identical by chemical and physical criteria. While it is clear that biomolecular systems work better if they only use one of the mirror image versions, it is far from clear which symmetry-breaking event allowed chiral life to arise and prosper in a mostly achiral world.

My review of the book

The origin of chirality in the molecules of life
By Albert Guijarro and Miguel Yus
RSC Publishing 2009
ISBN 978-0-85404-156-5

has now appeared in Chemistry & Industry, issue 9, p. 30. Here's a snippet:

Albert Guijarro and Miguel Yus describe the chirality problem and our current best guesses at its solution very systematically in their book. They start from first principles with the physics of time and space and precise physical definitions of symmetry and asymmetry. They very usefully split the problem into two fundamental aspects: symmetry-breaking events, and mechanisms that could amplify existing imbalance between enantiomers.

Readers who aren't very good at (or keen on) theoretical physics may find

Uwe Meierhenrich: Amino Acids and the Asymmetry of Life: Caught in the Act of Formation, Springer 2008

a bit more accessible.

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