News of the WeekORIGIN OF LIFE

A Biomolecule Building Block From Vents

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Science  25 Sep 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5385, pp. 1936-1937
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5385.1936b

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Researchers studying the origins of life have been unable to come up with a mechanism that would have produced enough ammonia on the early Earth for amino acids to form. Now, a team of researchers reports in this week's issue of Nature that they may have found a major source of early ammonia: the hot springs on the deep sea floor. In a series of laboratory tests, the researchers found that minerals deposited there make efficient catalysts for converting nitrogen into ammonia at the high temperatures and pressures of the vents.