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Formation of amino acid precursors with large molecular weight in dense clouds and their relevance to origins of bio-homochirality

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 February 2008

Kensei Kobayashi
Graduate School of Engineering, Yokohama National University79-5 Tokiwadai, Hodogaya-ku, Yokohama 240-8501, Japan email:,
Takeo Kaneko
Graduate School of Engineering, Yokohama National University79-5 Tokiwadai, Hodogaya-ku, Yokohama 240-8501, Japan email:,
Yoshinori Takano
IFREE, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology2-15 Natsushimacho, Yokosuka 237-0061, Japan email:
Jun-ichi Takahashi
NTT Microsystem Integration Laboratories3-1 Morinosato-Wakamiya, Atsugi 243-0198. Japan email:
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A wide variety of organic compounds have been found in carbonaceous chondrites and comets, which suggests that extraterrestrial organic compounds could have been an important source of the first terrestrial biosphere. In the Greenberg model, these organic compounds in the small bodies were originally formed in interstellar dusts (ISD) in dense clouds by the action of cosmic rays and ultraviolet light. We irradiated a frozen mixture of methanol, ammonia and water with high-energy heavy ions from an accelerator (“HIMAC” in NIRS, Japan) to simulate the action of cosmic rays in dense clouds. Racemic mixtures of amino acids were detected after hydrolysis of the irradiation products. A mixture of carbon monoxide, ammonia and water also gave such complex amino acid precursors with large molecular weights. When such amino acid precursors were irradiated with circular polarized UV light from a synchrotron, enantiomeric excesses were detected. The yield of amino acids was not largely changed between, before, and after CPL-irradiation. The present results suggest that the seed of homochirality of terrestrial amino acids were originally formed in interstellar space.

Contributed Papers
Copyright © International Astronomical Union 2008


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