Mirror-image asymmetric molecules, i.e., chiral isomers or enantiomers, are classically considered as chemically identical. Recent studies, however, have indicated that parity violation by the nuclear weak force induces a tiny energy difference between chiral isomers. Upon combination with a massive amplification process, expansion of this difference to a detectable macroscopic level may be achieved. Yet, experimental tests of this possibility, where one enantiomer is compared to the other in solution, are hampered by the possible presence of undetectable impurities. In this study we have overcome this problem by comparing structural and dynamic features of synthetic D- and L-polyglutamic acid and polylysine molecules each of 24 identical residues. In these water-soluble polypeptides helix formation is an intramolecular autocatalytic process amplified by each turn, which is actually unaffected by low level of putative impurities in the solvent. The helix and random coil configurations and their transition were determined in this study by circular dichroism (CD) and isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) in water and deuterium oxide. Distinct differences in structure and transition energies between the enantiomeric polypeptides were detected by both CD and ITC when dissolved in water. Intriguingly, these differences were by and large abolished in deuterium oxide. Our findings suggest that deviation from physical invariance between the D- and L-polyamino acids is induced in part by different hydration in water which is eliminated in deuterium oxide. Based on the recent findings by Tikhonov and Volkov (V. I. Tikhonov and A. A. Volkov, Science 2002, 296, 2363) we suggest that ortho-H2O, which constitutes 75% of bulk H2O, has a preferential affinity to L-enantiomers. Differential hydration of enantiomers may have played a role in the selection of L-amino acids by early forms of life.
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Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics
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