Chiral symmetry breaking in a microscopic model with asymmetric autocatalysis and inhibition

Harold W. Hatch, Frank H. Stillinger, Pablo G. Debenedetti

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17 Scopus citations


Asymmetric autocatalysis and inhibition have been proposed as key processes in the spontaneous emergence of chiral symmetry breaking in a prebiotic world. An elementary lattice model is formulated to simulate the kinetics of chiral symmetry breaking via autocatalysis and inhibition in a mixture of prochiral reactants, chiral products, and inert solvent. Starting from a chirally unbiased initial state, spontaneous symmetry breaking occurs in spite of equal a priori probability for creating either product enantiomer, and the coupled reaction-diffusion processes subsequently amplify the random early-stage symmetry breaking. The processes of reaction and diffusion are kinetically intertwined in a way leading to competition in the appearance of enantiomeric excess. An effective transition temperature can be identified below which spontaneous symmetry breaking appears. In the absence of inhibition, reactions are predominantly autocatalytic under both reaction control (fast diffusion, slow reaction) or diffusion control (fast reaction, slow diffusion) conditions. In the presence of inhibition, simulations with different system sizes converge to the same transition temperature under reaction control conditions, and in this limit the reactions are predominantly nonautocatalytic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number224502
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number22
StatePublished - Dec 14 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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