The Use of Ascorbate as an Oxidation Inhibitor in Prebiotic Amino Acid Synthesis: A Cautionary Note

Hideharu Kuwahara, Midori Eto, Yukinori Kawamoto, Hironari Kurihara, Takeo Kaneko, Yumiko Obayashi, Kensei Kobayashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

It is generally thought that the terrestrial atmosphere at the time of the origin of life was CO2-rich and that organic compounds such as amino acids would not have been efficiently formed abiotically under such conditions. It has been pointed out, however, that the previously reported low yields of amino acids may have been partially due to oxidation by nitrite/nitrate during acid hydrolysis. Specifically, the yield of amino acids was found to have increased significantly (by a factor of several hundred) after acid hydrolysis with ascorbic acid as an oxidation inhibitor. However, it has not been shown that CO2 was the carbon source for the formation of the amino acids detected after acid hydrolysis with ascorbic acid. We therefore reinvestigated the prebiotic synthesis of amino acids in a CO2-rich atmosphere using an isotope labeling experiment. Herein, we report that ascorbic acid does not behave as an appropriate oxidation inhibitor, because it contributes amino acid contaminants as a consequence of its reactions with the nitrogen containing species and formic acid produced during the spark discharge experiment. Thus, amino acids are not efficiently formed from a CO2-rich atmosphere under the conditions studied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-541
Number of pages9
JournalOrigins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres
Volume42
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Amino acid
  • CO-rich atmosphere
  • Prebiotic synthesis
  • Spark discharge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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