Experimental and Theoretical Constraints on Amino Acid Formation from PAHs in Asteroidal Settings

Claudia-Corina Giese, Inge Loes ten Kate, Martijn P. A. van den Ende, Mariette Wolthers, José C. Aponte, Eloi Camprubi, Jason P. Dworkin, Jamie E. Elsila, Suzanne Hangx, Helen E. King, Hannah L. Mclain, Oliver Plümper, Alexander G. G. M. Tielens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Amino acids and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) belong to the range of organic compounds detected in meteorites. In this study, we tested empirically and theoretically if PAHs are precursors for amino acids in carbonaceous chondrites, as previously suggested. We conducted experiments to synthesize amino acids from fluoranthene (PAH), with ammonium bicarbonate as a source for ammonia and carbon dioxide under mimicked asteroidal conditions. In our thermodynamic calculations, we extended our analysis to additional PAH-amino acid combinations. We explored 36 reactions involving the PAHs naphthalene, anthracene, fluoranthene, pyrene, triphenylene, and coronene and the amino acids glycine, alanine, valine, leucine, phenylalanine, and tyrosine. Our experiments do not show the formation of amino acids, whereas our theoretical results hint that PAHs could be precursors of amino acids in carbonaceous chondrites at low temperatures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)468-481
Number of pages14
JournalACS Earth and Space Chemistry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2022


  • Amino Acids
  • Aqueous Alteration
  • Carbonaceous Chondrites
  • Equilibrium Thermodynamics
  • Meteorites
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons


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