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α-Hydroxy and α-Amino Acids Under Possible Hadean, Volcanic Origin-of-Life Conditions

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Science  27 Oct 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5799, pp. 630-632
DOI: 10.1126/science.1130895

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Abstract

To test the theory of a chemoautotrophic origin of life in a volcanic, hydrothermal setting, we explored mechanisms for the buildup of bio-organic compounds by carbon fixation on catalytic transition metal precipitates. We report the carbon monoxide–dependent formation of carbon-fixation products, including an ordered series of α-hydroxy and α-amino acids of the general formula R-CHA-COOH (where R is H, CH3,C2H5,orHOCH2 and A is OH or NH2) by carbon fixation at 80° to 120°C, catalyzed by nickel or nickel,iron precipitates with carbonyl, cyano, and methylthio ligands as carbon sources, with or without sulfido ligands. Calcium or magnesium hydroxide was added as a pH buffer. The results narrow the gap between biochemistry and volcanic geochemistry and open a new gateway for the exploration of a volcanic, hydrothermal origin of life.

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