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Unusual stable isotope ratios in amino acid and carboxylic acid extracts from the Murchison meteorite

Abstract

Much effort has been directed to analyses of organic compounds in carbonaceous chondrites because of their implications for organic chemical evolution and the origin of life. We have determined the isotopic composition of hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon in amino acid and monocarboxylic acid extracts from the Murchison meteorite. The unusually high D/H and 15N/14N ratios in the amino acid fraction (δD = 1,370‰, after correction for isotope exchange; δ15N =90) are uniquely characteristic of known interstellar organic materials. The δD value of the monocarboxylic acid fraction is lower (377‰), but still consistent with an interstellar origin. These results confirm the extraterrestrial origin of both classes of compound, and provide the first evidence suggesting a direct relationship between the massive organo-synthesis occurring in interstellar clouds and the presence of pre-biotic compounds in primitive planetary bodies. The isotope data also bear on the historical problem of distinguishing indigenous material from terrestrial contaminants.1,2.

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Epstein, S., Krishnamurthy, R., Cronin, J. et al. Unusual stable isotope ratios in amino acid and carboxylic acid extracts from the Murchison meteorite. Nature 326, 477–479 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1038/326477a0

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