Racemization of Amino Acids in Marine Sediments

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Science  03 Sep 1971:
Vol. 173, Issue 4000, pp. 907-911
DOI: 10.1126/science.173.4000.907


Isoleucine, one of several amino acids isolated from a suite of welldated deep-sea cores, shows a progressive increase in the degree of racemization with the age of the sediment. Amino acids in sediments show an initial rate of racemization almost an order of magnitude faster than the rate observed for free amino acids at a comparable pH and temperature. The observed kinetics depend on a variety of diagenetic processes, but it appears that the ratio of alloisoleucine to isoleucine is a reliable indicator of age for samples less than 400,000 years old; for older samples the results are more ambiguous. Isoleucine is racemic in samples older than about 15 x 106 years.