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Geochim Cosmochim Acta. 1995 Mar;59(5):1003-15.

Linear and cyclic aliphatic carboxamides of the Murchison meteorite: hydrolyzable derivatives of amino acids and other carboxylic acids.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Arizona State University, Tempe 85287-1604, USA.
AZ St U, Tempe


Analyses of fractionated aqueous extracts of the Murchison meteorite by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry after silylation with N-methyl-N (tert-butyldimethylsilyl) trifluoroacetamide have revealed an extensive series of linear and cyclic aliphatic amides. These include monocarboxylic acid amides, dicarboxylic acid monoamides, hydroxy acid amides, lactams, carboxy lactams, lactims, N-acetyl amino acids, and substituted hydantoins. Numerous isomers and homologues through at least C8 were observed in all cases, except for the N-acetyl amino acids and hydantoins. Carboxy lactams, lactams, hydantoins, and N-acetyl amino acids are converted to amino acids by acid hydrolysis, thus, these compounds qualitatively account for the earlier observation of acid-labile amino acid precursors in meteoritic extracts. Laboratory studies of the spontaneous decomposition of N-carbamyl-alpha-amino acids and their dehydration products, the 5-substituted hydantoins, have led to the recognition of a series of aqueous phase reactions by which amino acids and cyanic acid/cyanate ion in the primitive parent body might have given rise to several of the observed classes of amides, as well as to monocarboxylic acids, dicarboxylic acids, and hydroxy acids. A previously undescribed reaction of 5-substituted hydantoins with cyanic acid/cyanate ion to give carboxamides of the 5-substituent groups was observed in the course of these studies. The presence of an extensive suite of amides in a CM chondrite appears to be consistent with the interstellar-parent body formation hypothesis for the organic compounds of these meteorites. The presence of carboxy lactams and lactams along with free amino acids suggests the possibility of further chemical evolution of meteorite amino acids by thermal polymerization. The cyclic amides, given their potential for hydrogen-bonded pair formation, might be considered candidate bases for a primitive sequence coding system.

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