Homocysteine is a non-proteinogenic sulfur-containing amino acid. Like cysteine, it can form disulfide bridges and complex metallic cations. It is also closely related to methionine, the first amino acid in the synthesis of all contemporary proteins. Furthermore, its cyclized form, a five-membered ring thiolactone, is stable in acidic and neutral water. Here, we demonstrate that this thiolactone may have been formed in the primitive ocean directly from the Strecker precursor of homocysteine, an aminonitrile. Even though it is poorly reactive, this thiolactone may be open by some amines, yielding amides which, in turn, could be the precursors of longer peptides.
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