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Title: On the Photostability of Cyanuric Acid and Its Candidature as a Prebiotic Nucleobase
Cyanuric acid is a triazine derivative that has been identified from reactions performed under prebiotic conditions and has been proposed as a prospective precursor of ancestral RNA. For cyanuric acid to have played a key role during the prebiotic era, it would have needed to survive the harsh electromagnetic radiation conditions reaching the Earth’s surface during prebiotic times (≥200 nm). Therefore, the photostability of cyanuric acid would have been crucial for its accumulation during the prebiotic era. To evaluate the putative photostability of cyanuric acid in water, in this contribution, we employed density functional theory (DFT) and its time-dependent variant (TD-DFT) including implicit and explicit solvent effects. The calculations predict that cyanuric acid has an absorption maximum at ca. 160 nm (7.73 eV), with the lowest-energy absorption band extending to ca. 200 nm in an aqueous solution and exhibiting negligible absorption at longer wavelengths. Excitation of cyanuric acid at 160 nm or longer wavelengths leads to the population of S5,6 singlet states, which have ππ* character and large oscillator strengths (0.8). The population reaching the S5,6 states is expected to internally convert to the S1,2 states in an ultrafast time scale. The S1,2 states, which have nπ* character, are predicted more » to access a conical intersection with the ground state in a nearly barrierless fashion (ca. ≤ 0.13 eV), thus efficiently returning the population to the ground state. Furthermore, based on calculated spin–orbit coupling elements of ca. 6 to 8 cm−1, the calculations predict that intersystem crossing to the triplet manifold should play a minor role in the electronic relaxation of cyanuric acid. We have also calculated the vertical ionization energy of cyanuric acid at 8.2 eV, which predicts that direct one-photon ionization of cyanuric acid should occur at ca. 150 nm. Collectively, the quantum-chemical calculations predict that cyanuric acid would have been highly photostable under the solar radiation conditions reaching the Earth’s surface during the prebiotic era in an aqueous solution. Of relevance to the chemical origin of life and RNA-first theories, these observations lend support to the idea that cyanuric acid could have accumulated in large quantities during the prebiotic era and thus strengthens its candidature as a relevant prebiotic nucleobase. « less
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