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Orig Life Evol Biosph. 2011 Jun;41(3):201-12. doi: 10.1007/s11084-010-9228-8. Epub 2010 Nov 10.

Prebiotic synthesis of methionine and other sulfur-containing organic compounds on the primitive Earth: a contemporary reassessment based on an unpublished 1958 Stanley Miller experiment.

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  • 1Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.

Abstract

Original extracts from an unpublished 1958 experiment conducted by the late Stanley L. Miller were recently found and analyzed using modern state-of-the-art analytical methods. The extracts were produced by the action of an electric discharge on a mixture of methane (CH(4)), hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S), ammonia (NH(3)), and carbon dioxide (CO(2)). Racemic methionine was formed in significant yields, together with other sulfur-bearing organic compounds. The formation of methionine and other compounds from a model prebiotic atmosphere that contained H(2)S suggests that this type of synthesis is robust under reducing conditions, which may have existed either in the global primitive atmosphere or in localized volcanic environments on the early Earth. The presence of a wide array of sulfur-containing organic compounds produced by the decomposition of methionine and cysteine indicates that in addition to abiotic synthetic processes, degradation of organic compounds on the primordial Earth could have been important in diversifying the inventory of molecules of biochemical significance not readily formed from other abiotic reactions, or derived from extraterrestrial delivery.

PMID:
21063908
PMCID:
PMC3094541
DOI:
10.1007/s11084-010-9228-8
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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