NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Prebiotic Synthesis of Autocatalytic Products From Formaldehyde-Derived Sugars as the Carbon and Energy SourceOur research objective is to understand and model the chemical processes on the primitive Earth that generated the first autocatalytic molecules and microstructures involved in the origin of life. Our approach involves: (a) investigation of a model origin-of-life process named the Sugar Model that is based on the reaction of formaldehyde- derived sugars (trioses and tetroses) with ammonia, and (b) elucidation of the constraints imposed on the chemistry of the origin of life by the fixed energies and rates of C,H,O-organic reactions under mild aqueous conditions. Recently, we demonstrated that under mild aqueous conditions the Sugar Model process yields autocatalytic products, and generates organic micropherules (2-20 micron dia.) that exhibit budding, size uniformity, and chain formation. We also discovered that the sugar substrates of the Sugar Model are capable of reducing nitrite to ammonia under mild aqueous conditions. In addition studies done in collaboration with Sandra Pizzarrello (Arizona State University) revealed that chiral amino acids (including meteoritic isovaline) catalyze both the synthesis and specific handedness of chiral sugars. Our systematic survey of the energies and rates of reactions of C,H,O-organic substrates under mild aqueous conditions revealed several general principles (rules) that govern the direction and rate of organic reactions. These reactivity principles constrain the structure of chemical pathways used in the origin of life, and in modern and primitive metabolism.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Weber, Arthur L. (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Inst. Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
August 6, 2003
Subject Category
Life Sciences (General)
Meeting Information
Exobiology P.I. Symposium(Toronto)
Funding Number(s)
PROJECT: RTOP 344-58-22-14
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.