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Impact of Phyllosilicates on Amino Acid Formation under Asteroidal Conditions

Abstract : The emergence of life on Earth could have benefitted from an extraterrestrial source of amino acids. Yet, the origin of these amino acids is still debated because they may have formed prior to the solar nebula or inside the parent body of meteorites. Here, we experimentally produced amino acids by exposing an interstellar model molecule (hexamethylenetetramine) to asteroidlike hydrothermal conditions (150°C; pH 10). We conducted additional experiments in the presence of carboxylic acids and phyllosilicates to simulate asteroidal environments. Analyses via liquid chromatography−mass spectrometry show that glycine is the most abundant amino acid formed, but non-proteinogenic α-, β-, and γ-amino acids are also produced. This production of amino acids seems to be hampered by the presence of Fe-rich smectites, while the presence of Al-rich smectites largely stimulates it. Our findings evidence (1) the production of amino acids during hydrothermal alteration of a putative interstellar precursor, (2) the importance of the formose reaction from formaldehyde and ammonia, for amino acid synthesis in meteorites, and (3) the impact of organic−mineral interactions on the nature/distribution of the amino acids produced. Altogether, the fact that the production of amino acids, which are so central to living structures, can be achieved via organo−mineral interactions under hydrothermal conditions should put these processes at a focal point for research on the origin of extraterrestrial organic compounds and into the origin of life.
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Contributor : Sylvain Bernard <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, November 24, 2020 - 1:43:39 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, December 8, 2020 - 3:35:48 AM


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V Vinogradoff, L Remusat, H Mclain, J Aponte, S Bernard, et al.. Impact of Phyllosilicates on Amino Acid Formation under Asteroidal Conditions. ACS Earth and Space Chemistry, ACS, 2020, ⟨10.1021/acsearthspacechem.0c00137⟩. ⟨hal-03021312⟩



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