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A Plausible Simultaneous Synthesis of Amino Acids and Simple Peptides on the Primordial Earth

Authors

  • Eric T. Parker,

    1. School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Georgia Institute of Technology, 901 Atlantic Drive NW, Atlanta, GA 30332 (USA)
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  • Dr. Manshui Zhou,

    1. School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Georgia Institute of Technology, 901 Atlantic Drive NW, Atlanta, GA 30332 (USA)
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  • Dr. Aaron S. Burton,

    1. Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX 77058 (USA)
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  • Dr. Daniel P. Glavin,

    1. Solar System Exploration Division, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771 (USA)
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  • Dr. Jason P. Dworkin,

    1. Solar System Exploration Division, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771 (USA)
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  • Prof. Dr. Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy,

    1. Department of Chemistry, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037 (USA)
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  • Prof. Dr. Facundo M. Fernández,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Georgia Institute of Technology, 901 Atlantic Drive NW, Atlanta, GA 30332 (USA)
    • Facundo M. Fernández, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Georgia Institute of Technology, 901 Atlantic Drive NW, Atlanta, GA 30332 (USA)===

      Jeffrey L. Bada, Geophysical Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 8615 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92093 (USA)===

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  • Prof. Dr. Jeffrey L. Bada

    Corresponding author
    1. Geophysical Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 8615 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92093 (USA)
    • Facundo M. Fernández, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Georgia Institute of Technology, 901 Atlantic Drive NW, Atlanta, GA 30332 (USA)===

      Jeffrey L. Bada, Geophysical Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 8615 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92093 (USA)===

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  • This research was supported by the Center for Chemical Evolution at the Georgia Institute of Technology, jointly supported by the NSF and the NASA Astrobiology Program (NSF CHE-1004570). E.T.P. acknowledges financial support from the Marine Biology Laboratory’s NASA Planetary Biology Internship Program. A.S.B. acknowledges support from the NASA Postdoctoral Program at the Goddard Space Flight Center, administered by Oak Ridge Associated Universities through a contract with NASA. J.P.D. and D.P.G. acknowledge the Goddard Center for Astrobiology and the NASA Astrobiology Institute. We are appreciative of the Mandeville Special Collections at the Geisel Library on the campus of the University of California, San Diego for archiving Miller’s original laboratory notebooks and providing assistance with retrieving them.

Abstract

Following his seminal work in 1953, Stanley Miller conducted an experiment in 1958 to study the polymerization of amino acids under simulated early Earth conditions. In the experiment, Miller sparked a gas mixture of CH4, NH3, and H2O, while intermittently adding the plausible prebiotic condensing reagent cyanamide. For unknown reasons, an analysis of the samples was not reported. We analyzed the archived samples for amino acids, dipeptides, and diketopiperazines by liquid chromatography, ion mobility spectrometry, and mass spectrometry. A dozen amino acids, 10 glycine-containing dipeptides, and 3 glycine-containing diketopiperazines were detected. Miller’s experiment was repeated and similar polymerization products were observed. Aqueous heating experiments indicate that Strecker synthesis intermediates play a key role in facilitating polymerization. These results highlight the potential importance of condensing reagents in generating diversity within the prebiotic chemical inventory.

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