Prebiotic RNA polymerisation: energetics of nucleotide adsorption and polymerisation on clay mineral surfaces†
We measured the binding energy and bonding parameters between model nucleotide functional groups and model clay mineral surfaces in solutions of acidic pH. We demonstrate that basal surfaces of clay minerals interact most strongly with nucleobases and show that the adsorption of the phosphate group to clay edges could facilitate polymerisation. Our results suggest that Al- and Fe-rich edge sites behave similarly in nucleotide polymerisation through change of the phosphodiester bond strength. We present an internally consistent set of thermodynamic parameters that represent the nucleotide–clay mineral system.