Amino acids in meteorites

Adv Space Res. 1983;3(9):5-18. doi: 10.1016/0273-1177(83)90036-4.


Carbonaceous chondrites carry a record of chemical evolution that is unparalleled among presently accessible natural materials. Within the complex suite of organic compounds that characterize these meteorites, amino acids occur at a total concentration that may reach 0.6 micromole g-1 meteorite (approximately 60 ppm). Both free amino acids and acid-labile amino acid derivatives have been found in hot-water extracts of a CI1 and seven CM2 chondrites. Although the amino acid composition of all CM2 chondrites is not the same, differences may be largely explicable on the basis of spontaneous and biologically-caused decomposition occurring during their terrestrial residence. The amino acids of the Murchison meteorite (CM2) have been extensively analyzed and 52 amino acids have been positively identified. Thirty three of these amino acids are unknown in natural materials other than carbonaceous chondrites. Thus the Murchison meteorite has recently been the major source of new naturally-occurring amino acids. The Murchison amino acids comprise a mixture of C2 through C8 cyclic and acyclic monoamino alkanoic and alkandioic acids of nearly complete structural diversity. Within the acyclic monoamino alkanoic acid series, primary alpha-amino alpha-branched amino acids are predominant. The concentrations of individual amino acids decline exponentially with increasing carbon number within homologous series. Amino acid enantiomers are found in approximately equal amounts. Eight of the terrestrial protein amino acids have been found.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / analysis*
  • Amino Acids / chemical synthesis
  • Amino Acids / chemistry
  • Carbon / chemistry
  • Evolution, Chemical*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Meteoroids*
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Origin of Life


  • Amino Acids
  • Carbon