Left and Right – why does it matter?

July 27, 2016 12:50 - 2:05 pm


Although our body is made up of mirror image halves and symmetric, internal organs display L-R (left and right) asymmetry. More strikingly, at the molecular level, we are totally L-R asymmetric, that is, DNA/RNA and proteins are made up of only D-(deoxy)ribose and L-amino acids, respectively (D: right, and L: left). All living organisms on Earth use the same invariant handedness. This so-called homochirality of biological world enhances the mystery of the origin of life on Earth 4 billion years ago. Further, chirality (L-R handedness) is important in pharmaceutical, agricultural and food industries, as biological effects of compounds often depend on the chirality. I shall present our attempt to understand the generation, transfer and amplification of chirality in biological as well as non-biological systems. We have been studying chiromorphology with a view to linking the microscopic and macroscopic domains through chirality.

In the biological field, we have been studying the coiling of the gastropods Lymnaea stagnalis, which is dictated by a still unidentified maternally-functioned single gene locus. We could create healthy fertile mirror-image snails by mechanical manipulation of the embryos at the very early developmental stage, and showed that the chiral blastomere arrangement at this stage dictates the Nodal signaling pathway, the pathway operating in the vertebrates as well.

In the non-biological field, we have been developing a new field of solid-state (not solution) chiral chemistry. In parallel, we have developed novel chiroptical spectrophotometers, UCS-1, -2 and -3, to study chirality of solid-state samples. With these, we studied e.g. aggregation process of peptides relevant to Alzheimer’s disease, and characteristics of inorganic and organic crystals.

Thus, chirality offers rich and exciting science.

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