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We report here an unexpected difference in the solubilities of DL-tyrosine in water, which could be discerned by their rate of crystallization and the resulting concentrations of their saturated solutions. A supersaturated solution of 10 mM L-tyrosine at 20 degrees C crystallized much more slowly than that of D-tyrosine under the same conditions, and the saturated solution of L-tyrosine was more concentrated than that of D-tyrosine. Supersaturated solutions of 10 mM DL-tyrosine in water formed precipitates of predominantly D-tyrosine and DL-tyrosine, resulting in an excess of L-tyrosine in the saturated solution. The experimental setups were monitored independently by UV-absorption, radioactivity tracing, optical rotation and X-ray diffraction. The process of nucleation and crystallization of D- and L-tyrosine is characterized by an exceptionally high cooperativity. It is possible that minute energy differences between D- and L-tyrosine, originating from parity violation or other non-conservative chiral discriminatory rules, could account for the observations. The physical process that initiated chiral selection in biological systems remains a challenging problem in understanding the origin of life, and it is possible that chiral compounds were concentrated from supersaturated racemic mixtures by preferential crystallization.
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