Research ArticleBIOCHEMISTRY

One-pot synthesis of amino acid precursors with insoluble organic matter in planetesimals with aqueous activity

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Science Advances  17 Mar 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 3, e1602093
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602093

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Abstract

The exogenous delivery of organic molecules could have played an important role in the emergence of life on the early Earth. Carbonaceous chondrites are known to contain indigenous amino acids as well as various organic compounds and complex macromolecular materials, such as the so-called insoluble organic matter (IOM), but the origins of the organic matter are still subject to debate. We report that the water-soluble amino acid precursors are synthesized from formaldehyde, glycolaldehyde, and ammonia with the presence of liquid water, simultaneously with macromolecular organic solids similar to the chondritic IOM. Amino acid products from hydrothermal experiments after acid hydrolysis include α-, β-, and γ-amino acids up to five carbons, for which relative abundances are similar to those extracted from carbonaceous chondrites. One-pot aqueous processing from simple ubiquitous molecules can thus produce a wide variety of meteoritic organic matter from amino acid precursors to macromolecular IOM in chondrite parent bodies.

Keywords
  • amino acid
  • meteorite
  • asteroid
  • aqueous alteration
  • insoluble organic matter
  • carbonaceous chondrite

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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