Recent Posts

The paper about Erythrulose highlighted in “Campusa”!

“Campusa”, the Journal of the University of the Basque Country, has published a press release about the paper “Laboratory Observation of, Astrochemical Search for, and Structure of Elusive Erythrulose in the Interstellar Medium”.

Click here to read the publication.




Our last paper has been highlighted as cover in JPCL!

Our paper “Laboratory Observation of, Astrochemical Search for, and Structure of Elusive Erythrulose in the Interstellar Medium” has been  highlighted as cover in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.


Our paper “Laboratory Observation of, Astrochemical Search for, and Structure of Elusive Erythrulose in the Interstellar Medium” accepted in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters

Rotational spectroscopy provides the most powerful means of identifying molecules of biological interest in the interstellar medium (ISM), but despite their importance, the detection of carbohydrates has remained rather elusive. Here, we present a comprehensive Fourier transform rotational spectroscopic study of elusive erythrulose, a sugar building block likely to be present in the ISM, employing a novel method of transferring the hygroscopic oily carbohydrate into the gas phase. The high sensitivity of the experiment allowed the rotational spectra of all monosubstituted isotopologue species of 13C-12C3H8O4 to be recorded, which, together with quantum chemical calculations, enabled us to determine their equilibrium geometries (reSE) with great precision. Searches employing the new experimental data for erythrulose have been undertaken in different ISM regions, so far including the cold areas Barnard 1, the pre-stellar core TMC-1, Sagittarius B2. Although no lines of erythrulose were found, this data will serve to enable future searches and possible detections in other ISM regions.

The paper has been accepted by The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

Our paper “Center for Astrobiology: Toward the RNA-World in the Interstellar Medium—Detection of Urea and Search of 2-Amino-oxazole and Simple Sugars” accepted in Astrobiology

In the past decade, astrochemistry has witnessed an impressive increase in the number of detections of complex organic molecules. Some of these species are of prebiotic interest such as glycolaldehyde, the simplest sugar, or aminoacetonitrile, a possible precursor of glycine. Recently, we have reported the detection of two new nitrogen-bearing complex organics, glycolonitrile and Z-cyanomethanimine, known to be intermediate species in the formation process of ribonucleotides within theories of a primordial RNA-world for the origin of life. In this study, we present deep and high-sensitivity observations toward two of the most chemically rich sources in the galaxy: a giant molecular cloud in the center of the Milky Way (G + 0.693-0.027) and a proto-Sun (IRAS16293-2422 B). Our aim is to explore whether the key precursors considered to drive the primordial RNA-world chemistry are also found in space. Our high-sensitivity observations reveal that urea is present in G + 0.693-0.027 with an abundance of ∼5 · 10-11. This is the first detection of this prebiotic species outside a star-forming region. Urea remains undetected toward the proto-Sun IRAS16293-2422 B (upper limit to its abundance of ≤2×10-11. Other precursors of the RNA-world chemical scheme such as glycolaldehyde or cyanamide are abundant in space, but key prebiotic species such as 2-amino-oxazole, glyceraldehyde, or dihydroxyacetone are not detected in either source. Future more sensitive observations targeting the brightest transitions of these species will be needed to disentangle whether these large prebiotic organics are certainly present in space.

The paper has been accepted by Astrobiology.

Our paper “Conformational impact of the aliphatic side chain in local anaesthetics: benzocaine, butamben and isobutamben” accepted in Chemical Communications

We studied the impact of the aliphatic side chain in the stability and conformational landscape of the local anaesthetics benzocaine, butamben and isobutamben, combining high resolution rotational spectroscopy in the microwave and millimetre regions and quantum-mechanical calculations. The study reveals the connections between the alkyl chain flexibility and molecular conformations.

The paper has been accepted by Chemical Communications.

Maider Parra gave a talk at the J2IFAM 2020

Maider Parra gave a talk at the XII Conference of Young Researchers in Atomic and Molecular Physics (J2IFAM 2020) entitled “Conformational analysis of D-Lyxose: from gas to condensed phase studies“.

Our paper “Observation of the Unbiased Conformers of Putative DNA-Scaffold Ribosugars” accepted in ACS Central Science

The constitution, configuration, and flexibility of the core sugars of DNA molecules alter their function in diverse roles. Conformational itineraries of the ribofuranosides (fs) have long been known to finely determine rates of processing, yet we also know that, strikingly, semifunctional DNAs containing pyranosides (ps) or other configurations can be created, suggesting sufficient but uncompletely understood plasticity. The multiple conformers involved in such processes are necessarily influenced by context and environment: solvent, hosts, ligands. Notably, however, to date the unbiased, “naked” conformers have not been experimentally determined. Here, the inherent conformational biases of DNA scaffold deoxyribosides in unsolvated and solvated forms have now been defined using gas-phase microwave and solution-phase NMR spectroscopies coupled with computational analyses and exploitation of critical differences between natural-abundance isotopologues. Serial determination of precise, individual spectra for conformers of these 25 isotopologues in alpha (α-d) and beta (β-d); pyrano (p) and furano (f) methyl 2-deoxy-d-ribosides gave not only unprecedented atomic-level resolution structures of associated conformers but also their quantitative populations. Together these experiments revealed that typical 2E and 3E conformations of the sugar found in complex DNA structures are not inherently populated. Moreover, while both OH-5′ and OH-3′ are constrained by intramolecular hydrogen bonding in the unnatural αf scaffold, OH-3′ is “born free” in the “naked” lowest lying energy conformer of natural βf. Consequently, upon solvation, unnatural αf is strikingly less perturbable (retaining 2T1 conformation in vacuo and water) than natural βf. Unnatural αp and βp ribosides also display low conformational perturbability. These first experimental data on inherent, unbiased conformers therefore suggest that it is the background of conformational flexibility of βf that may have led to its emergence out of multiple possibilities as the sugar scaffold for “life’s code” and suggest a mechanism by which the resulting freedom of OH-3′ (and hence accessibility as a nucleophile) in βf may drive preferential processing and complex structure formation, such as replicative propagation of DNA from 5′-to-3′.

The paper has been accepted by ACS Central Science

Dr. José Elguero and Dr. Ibon Alkorta visited our group!

Dr. José Elguero and Dr. Ibon Alkorta visited our group a week ago. They gave two amazing talks at the University of the Basque Country entitled “El futuro de la ciencia” (by Dr. Elguero) and “Anion-anion and cation-cation complexes” (by Dr. Alkorta).

In the picture bellow, Dr. Alkorta giving his talk.